April 10, 2017
WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS DAY
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. This is to highlight the need to improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as part of society.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 68 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. It is about 4.5 times more common among boys. In studies, parents of children with ASD notice a developmental problem before their child’s first birthday. Concerns about vision and hearing are more often reported in the first year, and differences in social, communication, and fine motor skills were evident from 6 months of age.
ASD is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. The exact cause of these differences is not yet known. Common symptoms include difficulties with social skills, communication, or unusual interests and behaviors. The CDC lists the following red flags for ASD:
- Not responding to their name by 12 months of age
- Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months
- Not playing “pretend” games by 18 months
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Having delayed speech and language skills
- Repeating words or phrases over and over
- Getting upset by minor changes
- Having obsessive interests
- Flapping their hands, rocking their bodies, or spinning circles
- Having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
Diagnosis is made based on the child’s behavior and development. At present, there is no cure. Early intervention is very important. Treatment services such as therapy can improve a child’s development and help them learn important skills like talk, walk, and interact with others.
Organizations such as Autism Speaks help find solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support. Locally, the Autism Society of the Philippines is dedicated to the well-being of those with ASD. From 11 mothers in 1989, they now have over 10,000 members with chapters all over the country. The organization is now composed of families, teachers, therapists, and institutions.
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