By Mary Ellen Slone
Are you privileged to know someone who has autism?
Whether you do or not, the members of ASBG (Autism Society of the Bluegrass) would like you to know that one in eighty-eight kids born in the USA is diagnosed with autism, 1.2% of the general population. Seven percent of this population will reflect that if one sibling is diagnosed with Autism, a second sibling is likely to also be diagnosed. Are you surprised? If not, you should be!
Boys are 4-5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
Autism is a neurological disorder which affects how people think, respond, play, and communicate.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it can present itself in a variety of combinations from mild to severe.
Each person with autism is different.
Autism is not caused by bad parenting, and children with autism are NOT just kids who choose to misbehave.
Individuals with autism want to socialize and have friends, but they need help, patience, and understanding to achieve that goal.
Autism is a lifelong disability, but it is treatable.
Worldwide, parents of autistic children face similar challenges; how to protect their children from being taunted, bullied or isolated, while encouraging them to socialize.
Locally, members of the ASBG want you to recognize and understand some early signs of Autism in young children. If after reading these ‘signals’ you as a parent, recognize characteristics of your child’s behavior, please consider having him or her evaluated by a physician. The earlier the diagnosis, the better.
By 6 months—no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
By 9 months—no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
By 12 months—lack of response to name; no babbling or ‘baby talk,’ no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, reaching, or waving.
By 16 months—no spoken words.
By 24 months—no meaningful two-word phrases which don’t involve imitating or repeating.
As these children get older, the red flags of autism become more diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, but they typically revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal communication difficulties, and inflexible behavior.
Working closely with researchers at the University of Kentucky, the members of the ASBG are continuously involved with Autism faculty members. UK and Eastern Kentucky University are both creating areas of academic specialization in Autism studies.
There are also opportunities for workshops and symposia for day care teachers, parents, and medical personnel to learn and share the latest information about Autism research.
The members of the ASBG provide education and support to families, educators and healthcare professionals dealing with this complex disorder. Sara Spragens, ASBG’s President, shared “Ours is among the oldest Kentucky chapters of the Autism Society of America. We provide a forum for sharing information with families, professionals, and individuals dealing with autism.”
There are 700 people in the Central Kentucky area who share the synergism of information which link families and professionals involved with autism.
ASBG usually meets the last Monday of the month at 6:30 pm at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 2025 Bellefonte Drive, off Zandale. For meeting dates and topics, upcoming workshops, and information about autism in Central Kentucky and elsewhere, visit the website asbg.org, and join the continuous discussion at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ASBG.
“Our mission is to disseminate solid, helpful, autism-related information to the communities we serve. We also provide scholarships for members to attend conferences elsewhere in Kentucky and beyond.” Ms. Spragens said.
While autism isn’t normally diagnosed and treated before the second year of life, there are things parents can do if you child’s social and emotional development doesn’t seem to be on course. If your child is developmentally delayed or you’ve observed other flags for autism, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away. The diagnosis process is complex, and can sometimes take time. First Steps is a federally funded early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Children who demonstrate several early warning signs may have developmental delays.
September 2014 ASBG’s Annual Bluegrass Autism Walk will be held at Whitaker Bank Ballpark; Details available soon at asbg.org.
Accept, Understand, Love
A child with Autism is not ignoring you, he or she is simply waiting for you to enter his or her world.
Autism is not something you grow out of.
There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.
10 things every child with autism wants you to know:
1) I am first and foremost a child. Autism is just one aspect of my character.
2) Ordinary sights, sounds and touches of everyday life that are normal to you can be painful for me.
3) It isn’t that I don’t listen to you, it’s just that I can’t understand you.
4) I am a concrete thinker. This means I interpret language very literally.
5) Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns—all behavior is a form of communication.
6) It is hard for me to tell you what I need when I don’t know the words to say it.
7) Be patient and consistent with me; I learn better when you tell, show, and do things with me.
8) Focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.
9) I want to be with the others but I don’t know how; please help me with social interactions.
10) Love me unconditionally—I promise you I’m worth it!