Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing, serious developmental disability that comes from a neurological disorder. It inhibits a person’s ability to communicate, respond to surroundings, problem solve effectively, and form relationships with others. It can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, as well as physical health issues. Some are referred to as a spectrum disorder, due to the fact they are characterized in varying degrees by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted interests, activities and repetitive behavior.
Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys, mostly children, irrespective of race, creed or socio-economic status. The disorder not only affects the person but the families, friends, schools and local communities.
Autism Speaks is a national organization that provides resources, education, advocacy, and outreach through Light It Up Blue events during the month of April. Volunteer Community Ambassadors, representing Autism Speaks, are out in their communities all year long, assisting with awareness, promotion, family services and research initiatives.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.
What are the signs of autism?
The timing and intensity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, behaviors become obvious as late as age 2 or 3. Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, ask your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation right away:
By 6 months
Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
Limited or no eye contact
By 9 months
Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
By 12 months
Little or no babbling
Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
Little or no response to name
By 16 months
Very few or no words
By 24 months
Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)
At any age
Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
Avoidance of eye contact
Persistent preference for solitude
Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
Delayed language development
Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
If you have concerns, get your child screened and contact your healthcare provider
Autism Speaks is a national organization, which provides resources for scientific research, grants, education, advocacy, and outreach through Light It Up Blue events during April. It’s Community Outreach Volunteers, who represent Autism Speaks in their community year round, assist with awareness initiatives and family services. The Autism Project Inc., of North Beach and Owings, a local non-profit organization serving Calvert County and four surrounding counties, was established in 1998. Twenty-one years later, The Autism Project, Inc., has grown in enrollment, staff, and has expanded services, due to the generosity of many Calvert County residents and businesses. Many participants have made enormous strides and benefit from the services, and young adults who reside at their independent living home gain self-confidence to overcome the many obstacles this disability can present; with improved life skills, they now enjoy gainful employment in the Calvert County community.
Calvert County Public Schools, through Special Education programming, incorporates eclectic approaches and methodology as well as visual supports, language development, and social skills, moving a student to increased independence.
The Calvert Board of County Commissioners proclaimed the month of April 2019, be known as Autism Awareness Month in Calvert County. They also proclaimed we commend all those who are committed to finding a cure for autism and urged all citizens to join them in increasing awareness and understanding of autism and to offer compassion to those affected by this disorder.
Margit Miller / Calvert Beacon