“1 in 68” is the number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the latest statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in March 2014. On World Autism Day, internationally-known and celebrated on the second day of April each year, organizations around the world take measures to raise awareness of ASD through numerous activities and fundraising events.
According to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit organization which helps spread awareness of autism by providing a wealth of knowledge and resources to parents and others alike, more than 150 countries joined in the efforts during 2017 to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism. They state, “Thousands of landmarks, homes, and businesses participated” (www.autismspeaks.org). In an effort to raise awareness and acceptance, hundreds of organizations “Light It Up Blue” in April to begin the dialogue, “What is ASD?”
Autism is a neurological developmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. It often leaves parents feeling overwhelmed and unsure of the best intervention and therapy methods to help their child.
There are numerous therapies and approaches in dealing with ASD, but what’s widely accepted across the profession is that early intervention is key in treating the condition. The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the more precise the therapy plan can be that’s developed to target the maladaptive behaviors and scattered skills they may present with. Some therapies that are universally utilized include behavioral therapy, applied behavior analysis, occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, speech and language therapy, play therapy, floor time, and nutritional therapy.
Learning your child’s developmental milestones, such as taking their first step, smiling, and speaking their first words, is instrumental in early detection of ASD. Developmental milestones can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website (www.cdc.gov) and include indicators from two months to five years old.
If your child isn’t reaching their developmental milestones in a timely manner, I would encourage you to speak to your pediatrician and share your concerns with them. Advocate for your child and request a developmental screening or referral to a developmental pediatrician or early intervention specialist.
As parents, we sometimes cling to the brightest talents our children possess and hope that their weaker skills will miraculously catch up. However, it usually doesn’t work that way with autism. We need to strategically teach autistic children in a way that enables them to learn, process, and flourish. The good news is they do learn and they can flourish. As parents, we need to develop skills to help teach our kids how to be independent and thrive in society. I’m going to Light It Up Blue – not just for my son, but also for the 1 in 68 in my community. Are you going blue, too?
Debra Rosenzweig holds a master’s degree in education. She’s worked in school systems for over 25 years, and has held administrative positions as well as junior high and high school teaching positions. She’s presented at the New Teachers Institute at California Polytechnic University at Pomona and has been a guest speaker at numerous schools and churches.
Debra is a mother of two as well as a writer, educator, consultant, and speaker. She leads a women’s small group study in her church and has started support groups for parents of children with disabilities. Learn more at www.inspirationforautism.com or www.debrosen.com.