By Interactive Metronome - April 1, 2014

Autism Awareness and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Autism Awareness and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

 

The CDC’s new report on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was troubling news for many parents and healthcare professionals. According to the report, 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder; that represents a 30% increase from the last report almost two years. The report also speaks to a widening gap between male (1 in 42) and female autism (1 in 189), meaning boys are over four times more likely to develop autism. Some reports claim that the number of children with autism is even higher, with 1 in 50 school-aged children dealing with some form of ASD. While scientist still debate whether increased autism rates are related to better diagnosis rates, vaccines, vitamin D levels, protein deficiencies or social changes, what is clear is that, now more than ever, it is time to understand the changing face of autism.

Autism is related to behavior, emotions and communication, not intelligence. People with ASD may learn, think and interact in their own unique way, but nearly half of those diagnosed with autism have average or above average intelligence. In fact, many of these people, regardless of IQ, have exceptional abilities or savantism in music, art, mathematics, literature and computer science. With this in mind, German software giant, SAP AG recently pledged to hire hundreds of people diagnosed with ASD to bring a unique and fresh perspective to creating and testing new computer programs.

ASD is a wide-spectrum disorder, which means that no two people will ever display the same symptoms with the same severity. Many people associate autism with physical tics, social detachment, weird speech patterns and seemingly obsessive behaviors, but most behaviors simply appear as a response to the environment and may vary drastically. A surprise bear hug in a crowd from a well meaning, but misguided uncle could turn violent; however, that same hug could be greatly enjoyed if expected when that uncle was leaving town after a long visit. Echolalia, repeating words and phrases, is common for people with ASD, but 25% of children do not speak at all.

Although each child is different, here are a few common signs of ASD:

 

·      Does not look and/or point to objects of interest

·      Avoids eye contact

·      Trouble with empathy and/or expressing feelings

·      Repeats, or echoes, words and phrases (echolalia)

·      Obsesses over people without interacting

·      Avoids contact

·      Inability to pretend

·      Trouble adapting

·      Excessive and unusual reactions

·      Difficulty maintaining attention

·      Trouble with memory

 

It is important to remember that children with autism still have feelings. Just because these children rarely express how they feel and often have trouble understanding other people’s emotions, does not mean that they do not have the ability to feel. In truth, the frustration with those around them and the apprehension about change can leave children with ASD feeling alone, depressed and angry. Additionally, autistic children have as much of an ability to love and be happy as anyone. As Robert Ring, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, said in a recent CNN report, “Behind these numbers are real people.” He continued, “Every one of these numbers is a family that’s coming to terms with the implications of the diagnosis…we need a plan to respond to these numbers, a national strategy for autism.”

When it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if 1 in 1,000 are born with autism or every kid in America, what matters is that people are aware of the changing face of autism. This Autism Awareness Month, help spread the word about autism education. Autism is not a rare disorder, but many parents are still on waiting lists for government support and programs in their school districts. It is time to demand early intervention. It is time for better diagnosis. It is time for better resource education. And maybe, it is time for Interactive Metronome®. Contact your IM representative today to see how you can start changing attitudes about ASD and changing lives with IM training.

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