“Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.”
The chances are quote good that you personally know someone with autism – the recorded incidence of this serious developmental disability is increasing every year. Despite this, it remains largely a mystery, with no known cure at this point & a very wide spectrum of behaviors that accompany it. A person with autism may be highly intelligent & high-functioning, or may have severe impairment of his or her ability to speak & socialize, or any degree in between. Some symptoms, such as avoidance of eye contact, difficulty with social cues, and trouble communicating verbally (especially in young children), do seem to be common across most of the autism spectrum.
I have become personally quite well-acquainted with the subject – my son, who recently turned five years old, was diagnosed with autism when he was two. While my wife & I have learned so much that we would want to share with parents of a child with autism, here are a few tips to keep in mind if your child has autism or you suspect he or she may have autism:
1. If you have a child under 3 years old and you see the warning signs, seek help as soon as possible. While autism does not yet have a known cure, evidence shows that the earlier it is identified in a child, the better the chances of the child reaching his or her full potential. Start by bringing up your concerns with your child’s doctor, and he or she can point you in the right direction for help. A therapist who can use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can help your child to learn to communicate effectively in socially appropriate ways.
2. Understand that you are your own child’s best advocate. Services offered for children with autism & their families do vary widely across states; while Pennsylvania, where I live, has a fantastic array of services & financial help in paying for them, not every state is the same.
3. Do your best to avoid comparisons. I have found one of the toughest parts of this journey to be seeing typically developing children who are my son’s age or younger and notice what a wide gulf there is between the way they can communicate & the way my son can. Every child develops in their own way & at their own pace, and it is important to celebrate the milestones in your child’s life, without needing to compare his or her progress to that of other children his or her age. This is hard, but it is necessary.
Even if your child does not have autism, it is very helpful to know about what autism is & how a person with autism relates to the world so that you will know better how to act around such people. I recommend starting www.autismspeaks.com.
Another interesting & helpful resource for understanding people with autism & how to relate to them & work with them can be found in the work of Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the foremost advocates for people with autism & whom has autism herself. You can read her article here by clicking this link.
It is important to treat all people with compassion, & people with special needs, such as autism, are no exception. Make an effort to better understand those around you who have autism, & if you have child with autism, do not give up – there is support available.
*Image credit: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.