April 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

April is National Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s to promote awareness about autism, to educate the public about autism, and to educate the public about issues within the autism community. The Autism Society provides parents with information and education about autism so that they are better able to make informed decisions about autism treatment.

Autism is a complex life long developmental disability that usually appears during the first three years of life. It affects a persons ability to communicate and interact with others. There is no single cause of autism but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans of autistic persons do show differences in the shape and structure of the brain. No one gene has been identified as causing autism. Children who have a sibling or a parent with autism are at a higher risk of also having autism. Poor parenting does not cause autism.

In December 2009, the CDC reported that the incidence of autism was 1 in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 boys. One to one and one half million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. One percent of children in the United States ages 3-17 years old have an autism spectrum disorder.

Families of autistic children require a lifetime of supports for their children. Children do not outgrow autism but studies do show that early diagnosis and intervention can lead to improved outcomes. Children can and do make developmental progress and are capable of learning new skills.

Some signs for parents to look for are: a lack of or a delay in spoken language; repetitive language or movements; little or no eye contact; a lack of interest in playing with other children; a lack of make believe play; playing with a toy properly instead of fixating on one part of the toy; and difficulty dealing with changes.

There is no scientific data or research to support the idea that vaccines cause autism and there are over two dozen studies that show there is no relationship between vaccines and autism. For more information about vaccines and autism visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org or www.cdc.gov.

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