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By Staff | Apr 6, 2012

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a mystery to be unraveled. Many researchers from around the world are trying to do just that. April is Autism Awareness Month.

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said that people with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.

Three characteristics stand out when it comes to autism, language delays, social and communication challenges and unusual behaviors and focused interests. In addition to those traits, people with ASDs may have one or more of several other characteristics. Each person has varying degrees of each of the symptoms.

The diagnosis of this spectrum has increased greatly in the past 40 years. In the 1970s, autism was diagnosed in 1 out of 2,000 children. In 2012, Autism Spectrum Disorder-which includes more categories for the disease than were present in the 1970s- is currently prevalent in 1 in 150 children.

No medical test has yet been developed to point to a diagnosis of ASD. Parents and medical professionals work together in observing behavior and look for delays in developmental steps of childhood.

Early intervention is the most important step that can be taken to help a child with an autism disorder spectrum. Some parents notice behaviors exhibited by their child by age one or two. Some kids seem like they are developing normally until they are a little older and then they may lose skills they had. Having ASD diagnosed early can contribute to the possibility of successful independent living, later.

Parents are encouraged to keep track of when the child achieves each step of development. The baby book that some parents keep on their child from birth to age 5 or longer can document these important steps.

Just because a child is delayed in some areas does not presume that they will be diagnosed with autism. The screening process takes time and professional medical help. The first course of action by parents may be to discuss their concerns with their family doctor or pediatrician.

However, if a parent’s gut is telling him/her that something isn’t quite right, continue to pursue the issue until satisfied. Ask questions and follow up. Parents are their children’s advocates.

Over the years, a number of techniques to help autistic children develop skills to use throughout life have been developed and have shown some success. It is best if the treatment program can be geared to the individual needs of each child.A good source for information on autism is www.cdc.gov/autism or www.autism-society.com or www.webmd.com/brain/autism.default.htm.

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