Do you know an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder? That your answer to this question is “yes” is more probable than it’s ever been before. Today, 1 in every 68 children in the U.S. will be born with ASD, an astonishing ratio considering that less than fifty years ago, just 4 in 10,000 children were born with this disorder. Since the 1980s, ASD has affected an exponentially larger number of children with each passing decade, and though the cause of ASD has yet to be determined, it’s important to continue to raise awareness and enhance our understanding of this disorder, as do organizations like the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute.
So what should you know about ASD?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both boys and girls of every ethnicity, though research has shown that boys have a higher likelihood of developing autism than girls. Individuals with this disorder are considered to be on a spectrum, because this disorder’s severity and the way in which it manifests can vary significantly. Unlike other disorders, ASD is not defined by a readily identifiable set of symptoms that are largely uniform across an affected population.
However, there are social, behavioral, and language impairments that are common among individuals on the spectrum. These include, but are not limited to:
- Difficult making eye contact
- Difficulty understanding facial cues
- Delayed language development
- Difficulty sustaining a conversation
- Social and emotional distance
- Repetitive phrases and movements
- Unique ways of communicating needs
Children with ASD typically begin showing symptoms between 12 and 18 months, which makes identifying ASD in infants challenging. Detecting ASD early is advantageous because research suggests that the sooner children receive intervention, the greater their potential for improved symptoms. There is no cure for ASD, which means that ASD symptoms can remain with a child for the entirety of his or her life. This makes effective intervention even more imperative; though an individual may always have ASD, with intervention, he or she may be able to live life in a more functional, independent capacity.
Naturally, parents are often the first to notice that their young child does not show signs of normal social, linguistic, and behavioral development. However, it’s also important to emphasize that parents are typically the only ones who know their child well enough to make such an early judgment; parents should therefore be diligent in their efforts to monitor development and immediately seek a professional opinion when suspicions arise.
Given that 3.5 million individuals live with ASD in the U.S. today, we have a responsibility to invest our time and effort into learning more about this disorder, including its causes and possible treatments.