One in 68 children in the United States will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to data completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,2014). Males are 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD compared to females as the CDC reports 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls will be diagnosed (CDC, 2014).
Not everyone has the same signs or symptoms for Autism Spectrum Disorder. I preface this because people will say to me, “Oh, my child won’t look at me in the eyes, they must have Autism Spectrum Disorder.” This is not necessarily true. While some ASD children and adults do struggle with eye contact, it is just one of the signs to look for ASD. There are multiple other factors to review before a diagnosis of ASD is made.
Most parents start to identify concerns with their child’s development before 3 years of age. I see many parents who state they noticed from a very early age “something was unusual” or “they were not playing with others like other children”. If you notice anything different about how your child behaves or interacts, contact a professional.
Early diagnosis and early evidence-based intervention is VERY important. If you notice anything unusual in your child early on, get them evaluated. Research has shown that if a child can get in for early treatment using evidence-based practices it will lead to greater successes later on.
Almost half of children with ASD have average to above average intellect capabilities (CDC, 2014). Having a diagnosis of ASD does not mean they can’t learn new skills or are not able to get a job or go to college. With everyone in the child’s life working together to help them, they are able to learn tasks to be successful on the job or in school.
Children with high intellect and verbal skills with ASD still face challenges but they may not always be noticed. Some children with high IQs and great verbal skills may have the inability to understand abstract language including sarcasm, metaphors or puns. These children often don’t know when they are being teased so they are at an increased likelihood of being bullied.
Treatment is time consuming and can be costly. The average medical expenses for children and adolescents with ASD are 4-6 times greater than those without ASD. Effective treatment may take many hours during the week to ensure the child is getting maximized benefits in learning the skills.
Children/adults with ASD may process sensory information differently. Some children/adults may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain sounds, touch, taste, light or smell. Some children may say a sound is too loud when it is above a certain volume; some may not be bothered at all. Some children do not eat certain textures of food whereas others will eat everything on their plate and then some. It depends on the person.
Children with ASD do love their families. I have worked with families who ask, “Will my child ever love me like his sibling?” The answer is yes, they do love you, they just struggle to show it in the traditional way. Many children with ASD love their parents and want relationships with people but they do not like to be touched or struggle to verbally tell someone they care about them. The traditional ways do not come naturally to them and further work such as in physical touch or telling someone a compliment has to be worked on.
Don’t do this alone. There are many good websites out there (i.e. www.autismspeaks.org) that provide helpful information to parents and providers. Use the information that is out there but
be careful with companies telling you they have a “cure” or a “quick fix” for Autism. Sometimes those websites and companies that promise a person to be “cured” actually do more harm to the child than good.
Jennifer Schreiner is a licensed master level psychologist and autism specialist at Prairie View’s Hillsboro, McPherson and Newton offices.