What is autism?
Recognized a half century ago (Hanchette), Autism is a developmental disorder that has been deemed very severe and begins anytime between the birth of the child and 2 ½ years of age. These children are normal in appearance, but they will engage in various disturbing behaviors that are obviously different than the behaviors of normal children. There are also varying degrees of autism. Those who have less severe cases may be diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or Asperger’s Syndrome in which the child may have normal speech, but display some social and behavioral problems that are associated with autism (unknown, autism.com/autism).
But believe it or not, it was once believed that autism was to be accepted as is because it was thought that nothing could be done about it. But now there have been a variety of treatment methods developed which have proven to be very helpful in leading to great improvement. Yet there is also the unfortunate fact that some treatments may have little or no effect at all on the autistic child (unknown, autism.com/autism).
So why was autism thought to be hopeless? Well, for many years autism was thought to be a very rare occurrence. The average number of children born with autism was 5 out of every 10,000 live births (unknown, autism.com/autism). But since the 1990’s, there has been a very noticeable rise in the number of children developing autism. This rise is telling us that there is an average of 60 children out of 10,000 born with autism in which boys outnumber the girls four to one. As of 2007, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with autism (unknown, autism.com/autism). To think that in 1992 there were only 2,800 kids with autism in the entire state of California. When 2002 rolled around, that number had increased to 20,400 and as of 2004, the number of autistic children in California reached a staggering 24,000. That is a 440% increase between the years 1994 and 2004. New York is up 200% in the last decade and Pennsylvania has reached a 900% increase (Hanchette).
It is very obvious with the latest statistics that autism is undergoing a significant rise, which makes it very important that the behavioral and physical signs are recognized as early as possible to ensure the appropriate treatment is administered. It is said that the sooner the child is treated, the better the outcome. With increased awareness of the signs and treatment being administered early, there are autistic children attending regular classrooms and some can live somewhat independently in a community setting. However, autistic people do not lose the impairment that comes along with autism that affects their ability to communicate and socialize successfully. This aspect, unfortunately, continues to haunt them for the duration of their lives.
Behavioral signs of autism
There are various behavioral signs associated with autism. These signs include: repetitive behaviors, lack of speech, withdrawal from parents or siblings, very little or no social interaction (Hanchette). If the child displays no big smiles or other expressions of joy by six months old, then that is a huge red flag. Another sign is if they do not share facial expressions, sounds or smiles, or if the child has not spoken by 16 months or has used multiple worded phrases with meaning by 24 months, those could all be