April 2nd of this year was the first time that Canada joined the world in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day. Approximately 1 in 88 Canadians live with Autism, which is a lifelong developmental disability affecting communication skills & social interactions. While there are many different therapies & treatments, there is no cure for Autism. Early detection greatly improves the chances of establishing appropriate educational supports and any necessary treatments and interventions.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it varies widely in severity within the affected population. In some it is very apparent, but others you wouldn’t know they have a disability. The label ‘Autism’ is a generic term describing a wide variety of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder which may include Aspergers or Rett Syndrome. There isn’t a “normal” Autistic person: each individual has a different challenges, skills & needs though there are some characteristics commonly seen in those along the spectrum. These include hand flapping, body rocking, seizures, aggressive behavior, a need for routine (and resistance to change in that routine) & uneven skill development, which can mean extraordinary skill on other areas such as drawing, music, math or memorizing things.
There is a wide array of different treatment programs available, as there isn’t one single therapy that is effective for every person along the Autistic Spectrum. Treatments range from counseling to biomedical approaches, communication & motor skills development, and especially important for children: play based interventions. There are even horseback riding therapies for those with autistic spectrum disorders. Treatments often take a long time to see effects though for any parent of a child with Autism, any progress is validating.
The cause of Autism is largely unknown, but there are continuing studies investigating the role of genetics, environmental factors, health of the mother pre & post-partum and vaccines in the development of children with delays along the Autistic Spectrum. Genetics can’t be helped, but doing your research & making smart decisions about the rest of those possible causes may lessen the chances of your child developing Autism.