April is Autism Awareness Month
- Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder. The essence of autism is in the brain not the behavior.
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are often misdiagnosed as mental health, emotional or behavioral problems.
- Autism is more prevalent than childhood cancers, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 50 school age children meet the diagnostic criteria for an ASD.
- No two individuals with an ASD are the same. Research suggests there are multiple autisms due to singular or multiple genetic mutations caused by environmental factors or exposures. These can create chromosomal differences, brain structure changes, and neurochemical variances.
- Dagnostic criteria include, but are not limited to: impaired communication; difficulties in social interaction; stereotyped or repetitive behaviors; sensory problems and sensitivities.
- Approximately 30 – 40 % of people with ASDs are “high functioning” which means they have average to superior intellect and are very verbal. However, they still struggle to navigate everyday life. Difficulties in social communication and interactions and deficits in executive skills may lead to challenging behaviors. Co-existing depression and anxiety can be debilitating.
- ASDs are present from birth or early development. Autism is unique in the pattern of deficits and areas of strengths. It has lifelong effects on how children learn to be independent and to participate in their community. Autism can occur along with intellectual disabilities, language disorders, seizures, and mental health issues.
- Students with autism are more likely than other special-need students to receive out-of-district placements.
- Research focused on improving diagnosis, identifying causal factors and developing interventions is ongoing. Sometimes controversy over best practices arises, but many organizations are working cooperatively to integrate advances in medicine, psychology and education.
- A Harvard Department of Public Health study estimates that the direct medical and non-medical cost of autism ranges from $38,000 – 100,000 for each autistic individual per year. This does not include the costs to the school system, which can be around $40,000 per student per year. Indirect costs (which include lost productivity/wages) range from $40,000 – 130,000 per year. The total cost of autism for each individual can be $3.2 million per year.
Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network www.rrvan.org (Tel. 701-566-1675)