What is Autism?
Where to Start?
Autism refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication and varying degrees of self-sufficiency. About 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network [Read article] affecting boys 4 times more often than girls. They call it a spectrum because there are so many sub-types, most influenced by a combination of genetics and environmental factors causing each person to have a distinctive set of strengths and challenges unique to them. Some may need less support and can learn to live independently or on the other end of the spectrum they can be severely disabled and need constant supervision and support. Autism impacts how they learn, think, problem solve and communicate with the world around them, it can also lead to problems with sensory sensitivities, medical conditions, seizures, sleep disorders, as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. Research shows that early intervention can lead to positive outcomes and the first symptoms usually appear between the ages of 18 months to 3 years old. If a family suspects their child is on the spectrum they should consult their family doctor right away for advice and to schedule an evaluation.
Support & Training for the Family
Services vary from state to state but finding resources close to home or online is crucial for everyone in the family, especially since it can take quite a while to get a proper diagnosis for the child. Training the child's caregivers about autism and how to effectively manage the symptoms can reduce the stress on the child and their family, not to mention improve their learning capabilities. Some families will need more outside assistance than others, depending on their internal functioning, established support system and financial situation. They should talk to health professionals and investigate how to find local services, here in Southern Idaho that would be St. Luke's Hospital in Twin Falls [https://www.stlukesonline.org/]. Below are suggestions from St.Luke's Health Services on measures a family can utilize now.
- Schedule breaks. The daily demands of caring for a child with autism can be overwhelming. Trained personnel can relieve family members from these duties as needed. These breaks can help families communicate in a less stressful context and allow parents to focus on their relationships with their other children. Having regular breaks may also help a family continue to care for a child at home, rather than becoming so exhausted that they resort to institutional care. Government programs exist to help families who cannot afford this occasional care.
- Seek assistance for a child with autism who is entering adolescence. Community services and public programs can help families during what can be an especially difficult time for their child. An adolescent child may benefit from group home situations, special employment, and other programs designed to help the transition into adulthood.
- Make contact with other families who have a child with autism. There are many families who share your concerns and daily challenges. Local and national groups can help connect families and provide much-needed sources of information. Most health professionals can recommend some of these organizations