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Published:April 27th, 2007 05:46 EST
Autism May Be Coming To A Home Near You-- Maybe Even Yours

Autism May Be Coming To A Home Near You-- Maybe Even Yours

By Peter Giordano

There is no shortage of literature on autism.  Whether you are a concerned parent, teacher, or researcher looking for the cure, the abundance of autism materials is astounding. Because there is an endless amount of research on autism, there are also many theories and beliefs which tend to be controversial. Although physically you cannot tell when one is autistic, it does not mean that this disorder should be disregarded.

In fact, there are many important details about autism, also known as the autistic disorder, about which many individuals are completely unaware.  Moreover, the question what is autism goes unanswered quite frequently.  Nineteen parents who have children with autism were interviewed and then participated to find out about the experiences they have had with autism treatments. The results showed that most parents received information about autism treatment from the internet, other parents, and occupational therapists.  This obviously highlights the need for parents to have access to unbiased, scientifically validated information about treatments for autism rather than word of mouth.  It is very important to treat autism professionally rather than experiment with what one finds by searching the web.

Scientists have discovered that autism is one of five pervasive developmental disorders that are all characterized by impairment in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and play or behavior.  Children with milder forms of autism, regardless of their moderately intact cognitive skills, have impaired and/or abnormal repetitive behaviors. However, there are children with autism who are severely handicapped, lack every form of communication, have extreme aggressive and/or self-injurious behaviors, and in some cases are affected with seizures.

Studies have also been done to examine the emotional awareness of 22 high functioning children with autism and 22 developing children. These children were matched by age and gender and were presented with the four basic emotions including, happiness, anger, sadness, and fear. Studies show that the children with autism have much difficulty identifying there own emotions and also an impaired capacity to differentiate between emotions within the negative spectrum. This also means that autistic children trend to have a more leading position of fear than those without autism.

The signs and symptoms of autism are endless and are not always easily recognized which can be a problem in many cases.  Even having poor eye contact can be a result of be autism. Although many autistic children are in the regular classrooms throughout some of the school day, they do not learn the same way as students without this disorder. Many parents feel that this is a huge concern.  Children with autism need specific instructions that other students most likely will not need. This often causes an overwhelming amount of stress on parents and can even become rather costly when looking for other options for their children.

In the United States in 2006, a child was diagnosed with autism every 21 minutes. This is what explains the high demand for therapist.  With approximately only 150 internationally-recognized autism experts worldwide, the shortage is a serious problem. Over one year’s time, costs of private sessions add up to roughly $100,000.  Ten years ago, these rates were much different. The national autism rate was thought to be 1 in every 500 children.

In fact in 2007, 1 in every 94 New Jersey children were found to have autism after a federally-funded study. In this study it was also found that 1 in every 60 boys has a form of autism. This represents a growing problem and was clearly noticed in the Garden state. Over time, more and more children are being diagnosed with autism because of wider public awareness of the condition. This is why the number of children diagnosed with autism can only increase in the years to come. Autistic adults lead much different lives from those without.  However, it is often said that because the Internet and computers are almost completely full of void, those adults and even children with autism are able to communicate by using this technology.

According to Title I of the Children’s Health Act of 2000 (CDC), grants and agreements were made for the collection and analysis of data on autism and other forms of this disability.  But, because of the increasing rate of autism, funding is not keeping up over the recent years.

Those who feel strongly enough about autism and are involved in finding the cure, essentially agree that families should no longer be told ‘there’s nothing you can do to treat your child’s autism.’ Peter Bell, CEO of Cure Autism Now, agrees that autism is a national health crisis and feels that it is a tragedy that there is yet to be any sort of standard care available to those who are struggling with this enormous challenge. Cure Autism Now shares a commitment to the biomedical treatment of autism and a confidence that a better quality of life is possible for those affected by this developmental brain disorder.

Treatment for autism can go in various different directions.  Two national autism research training programs have been created to develop the next generation of autism researchers.  Fortunately, this will benefit the future of autism research. Dr. Jeannett Holden leads this training program and it has currently spread to 17 different sites throughout the United States as well as Canada. Researchers are extremely crucial for autism because this study is going to continue over an extended amount of years.  However, Holden is not the only individual looking for a cure. Thankfully, James M. Perrin, M.D. is taking part in ATN, which is a collaborative of leading centers in autism treatment that share information to continually improve a standard care for autism. ATN is working on establishing and supporting a community of engaged physicians, clinicians, researchers, and families. New treatment approaches have and will be taken which are shared and placed into the standardized national database to promote healthcare reform in the area of autism treatment.

Full treatment is still unknown and in order for the cure of autism to succeed, those involved need to understand the causes and biological basis of the autism spectrum disorder.  Unfortunately, researchers alone will not be able to solve the challenge of autism.  Children and their families, the school system, and the government and policy makers also play a huge role in finding the cure.  With more children being diagnosed with autism, more parents are hiring lawyers to ensure their children get the education they need at school, according to Dr. Edward Ritvo.  This is happening all because of the rise in autism. With everyone combined, there is an opportunity to ensure that all of those affected by autism will benefit from the best existing research and that future children will also be able to benefit from the research that is going on today.

Many parents and families cannot wait for a cure to come along.  In the meanwhile, by merely logging on to and answering easy-to-understand questions, parents can create a wide-ranging treatment program designed specifically for their child.  The user-friendly program includes recommended appropriate treatment goals, as well as step-by-step exercises. These tools helps parents schedule and use these therapeutic activities with their child. It also helps them track their child's progress in addition to receiving guidance on what steps to follow.

Although finding the cure will be a long process, there are also things that can be done today. One way to offer help immediately to autistic children and their families is to ensure that the programs created to combat autism are fully funded. It is vital that we do not shortchange these programs; but rather, we must give autism the attention and research that it needs.

See also:  Judyth Piazza chats with Karen Simmons, Founder of Autism Today