Whether you are new to the world of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or have a long-standing familiarity, the rising prevalence of ASD means you could meet more children with autism this year than you did last year.
As we begin Autism Awareness Month in April, here are some tips to be more aware and understanding of the community of autism.
Increasing Diagnoses Gives Reason for Increased Awareness
The latest estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined in late 2018 there was a 15-percent increase in prevalence among young children diagnosed with ASD, bringing the national average to 1 in 59 children, from 1 in 68 just two years prior. This translates into about 65,000 to 70,000 children this year having the diagnosis.
It may be hard to pinpoint a child with autism by the symptoms presented and that is often because the severity and variety of symptoms range for each person with the diagnosis from low- to high-functioning autism—that's one reason it's called a spectrum disorder.
When a child with autism is diagnosed, often doctors or BCBAs will recommend 25 or more hours per week of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy can help all those diagnosed with autism to be a more functioning, productive members of society—learning vital communication and interpersonal skills as they grow, live, and work in society.
Don't Rush to Judgement
A common concern for parents of children with autism is often the judgement and sometimes harsh looks or comments from others when their child has a meltdown in public. Every child with autism is different, and their behaviors can be very different from other children.
When you see a parent who is struggling with a child who is acting out, please don't rush to judgement about this behavior being the result of bad parenting or a spoiled child. It's possible that child is overwhelmed or frustrated, and they are just expressing their stress response to the world at that moment, and no one is to blame.
We can all help by letting parents work through these issues with their child without being critical or disapproving.
Don't Be Afraid to Interact
Patience is key to understanding the different reactions someone with autism may have to everyday occurrences. Children with autism in ABA therapy are learning to match their reactions to the actions they encounter—a skillset from which everyone can benefit.
Often a child with autism may initially misunderstand certain actions or language when heard. As a result, their emotions and comments in reaction may be off the typical mark because they've misread the intent of the message. As a result, people with autism may over- or under-react relative to neurotypical people in the same situation. What someone finds funny or understands to be a joke, can be seen by a person with autism as ridicule or mockery.
Point out their abilities, not the disability
Many strengths come with autism, not just the deficits associated with behavior or communication. There are gifted skills and talents that are less known, but can be common among those with autism, like an exceptional memory, complex thinking, and generous compassion. Because people with autism come from a very realistic, literal view of the world, they don't often stretch the truth or even know how to manipulate language or interactions with people. This can be a refreshing take on life and should be celebrated.
Where to turn if you need help
Parents will know when developmental milestones are not being met. There are common warning signs or behaviors that indicate a child may have autism, and it’s important to pay attention to these signs. Children should be screened for autism at 18 months and 24 months whether or not warning signs are prevalent. If a screening indicates the child may have ASD, then a formal diagnosis will need to be scheduled.
Centria Autism has a dedicated team of specialists that can help navigate the often complex and arduous diagnosis and insurance process to receive ABA therapy. To learn more or take advantage of this free service, please contact us at 855-77-AUTISM or learn more at www.CentriaAutism.com.