National Autism Awareness Month (April)

Since the 1970's April has been designated as National Autism Awareness month. In recent years the prevalence of autism has increased dramatically, leading to an outpouring of support and awareness. Currently, 1 in every 88 children in America and almost 1 in every 54 boys have autism. Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

Not only is autism somewhat of a burden to those that it affects but it is also costly. The lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. Since autism is not preventable at this point, it is no surprise that the annual cost is so high. On a brighter note, autism is treatable! Children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some signs and symptoms that can be observed during early developmental years include:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

Information in this article was obtained from the Autism Society. For more information please visit: http://www.autism-society.org/

Information provided by Benjamin L. Gregory, student intern with Community Wellness at Augusta Health. Funding has been provided through the Augusta Health Foundation. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, relating to the information in this article, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.