Are you wearing blue today? April 2 marks the official fifth annual World Autism Day. This day is meant to create a broader awareness about autism and to help children and adults who suffer with the disorder live a meaningful and productive life.
So what is autism?
Autism is an incurable and complex neurobiological disorder that affects the communication, behaviour and social relationships. It is most commonly diagnosed in children at age 4, but sadly there are more and more children being diagnosed as early as 3 years old now. There is no cure and those affected face a lifelong struggle.
There are many signs and symptoms associated with autism. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- The child finds difficulty with verbal communication and faces problems in using and understanding language.
- Sometimes, even the child is capable of speaking he is unable to participate in any type of communication.
- Faces difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions.
- Hesitates in social interaction.
- The patient is unable to make friends and prefers to play alone.
- The child lack imagination power.
- Difficulty to adopt unfamiliar routine and new environment.
- Continuous repetition of body movements and behavior like hand flapping, spinning, and head banging can be seen.
Although no cause has been found, scientists have been able to identify a number of rare gene alterations – involving as many as 20 sets of genes — associated with autism. In rare cases, these alone are sufficient to cause autism. However, in most situations, autism seems to come from a combination of genetic predisposition as well as other non-genetic factors affecting neurological development close to a child’s birth.
Just last week, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data that states 1 in 88 children – or 1.1 percent of the population — have been identified as having some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These latest numbers show a 23 percent increase in diagnosed cases over a previous report in 2009, and a 78 percent increase since the Centers’ first report in 2007. It’s believed that this increase in reported cases is the result of advancements in identification and diagnosis.
The CDC has been tracking ASDs for more than a decade through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. The latest data collected from 14 different areas of the U.S. was on children who were 8 years old, since by this age, most children with ASDs will have been identified for services.
Among the CDC’s findings:
- The number of children identified with ASDs varied widely across the 14 ADDM Network sites, from 1 in 47 (21.2 per 1,000) to 1 in 210 (4.8 per 1,000).
- ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
- The largest increases over time were among Hispanic children (110%) and black children (91%). We suspect that some of this increase is due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups. However, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups.
- There were increases over time among children without intellectual disability (those having IQ scores above 70), although there were also increases in the estimated prevalence of ASDs at all levels of intellectual ability.
Autism Awareness Month runs through the end of April. If you would like more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, identification, intervention apps or services, please check out the links below:
- World Autism Awareness Day
- Autism Awareness Month
- Canadian National Autism Foundation
- The CDC’s Section on Autism
- Autism Speaks
- Autism Canada
- Autism Society of Canada
- Autism Ontario
- The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA)
- Free Materials for Parents and Early Educators
- List of International Autism Organizations
- Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE)
Image Source: Autism Speaks