Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month. This is a scary disorder because there is so much yet unknown. I have friends with have children that have been touched with autism and my son has seen several doctors and therapists over the years though never “diagnosed.”
https://www.autismspeaks.org/ is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.
Chief among these are increased global awareness of autism, a better understanding of the breadth of the autism spectrum, and advocacy to increase research and access to care and support.
Today, Autism Speaks is dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions both through direct funding and collaboration.
Please join me in sharing this information to help with awareness and acceptance.
The information below, all from https://www.autismspeaks.org/ is not meant to diagnose or treat. It should not take the place of consultation with a qualified healthcare professional.
Autism Facts and Figures
One of the most common questions asked after a diagnosis of autism is what caused the disorder.
We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic, or environmental, influences.
These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. However, it’s important to keep in mind that increased risk is not the same as cause. For example, some gene changes associated with autism can also be found in people who don’t have the disorder. Similarly, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for autism will develop the disorder. In fact, most will not.
Autism’s genetic risk factors
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child (even if the parent does not have autism). Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase the risk for the disorder.
Autism’s environmental risk factors
Research also shows that certain environmental influences may further increase – or reduce – autism risk in people who are genetically predisposed to the disorder. Importantly, the increase or decrease in risk appears to be small for any one of these risk factors:
- Advanced parent age (either parent)
- Pregnancy and birth complications (e.g. extreme prematurity [before 26 weeks], low birth weight, multiple pregnancies [twin, triplet, etc.])
- Pregnancies spaced less than one year apart
- Prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, before and at conception and through pregnancy
No effect on risk
- Vaccines. Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some, it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a comprehensive list of this research.
Differences in brain biology
How do these genetic and nongenetic influences give rise to autism? Most appear to affect crucial aspects of early brain development. Some appear to affect how brain nerve cells, or neurons, communicate with each other. Others appear to affect how entire regions of the brain communicate with each other. Research continues to explore these differences with an eye to developing treatments and supports that can improve quality of life.
Autism’s core symptoms are
- social communication challenges and
- restricted, repetitive behaviors.
In autism, these symptoms
- begin in early childhood (though they may go unrecognized)
- persist and
- interfere with daily living.
Specialized healthcare providers diagnose autism using a checklist of criteria in the two categories above. They also assess symptom severity. Autism’s severity scale reflects how much support a person needs for daily function.
Many people with autism have sensory issues. These typically involve over or under-sensitivities to sounds, lights, touch, tastes, smells, pain, and other stimuli.
Autism is also associated with high rates of certain physical and mental health conditions.
Social communication challenges
Children and adults with autism have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, they may not understand or appropriately use:
- Spoken language (around a third of people with autism are nonverbal)
- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
- Tone of voice
- Expressions not meant to be taken literally
Additional social challenges can include difficulty with:
- Recognizing emotions and intentions in others
- Recognizing one’s own emotions
- Expressing emotions
- Seeking emotional comfort from others
- Feeling overwhelmed in social situations
- Taking turns in conversation
- Gauging personal space (appropriate distance between people)
Restricted and repetitive behaviors
Restricted and repetitive behaviors vary greatly across the autism spectrum. They can include:
- Repetitive body movements (e.g. rocking, flapping, spinning, running back and forth)
- Repetitive motions with objects (e.g. spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers)
- Staring at lights or spinning objects
- Ritualistic behaviors (e.g. lining up objects, repeatedly touching objects in a set order)
- Narrow or extreme interests in specific topics
- Need for unvarying routine/resistance to change (e.g. same daily schedule, meal menu, clothes, route to school)
- In 2018 the CDC determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- 1 in 37 boys
- 1 in 151 girls
- Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
- Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.
- 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85), and 44% have IQ scores in the average to above-average range (i.e., IQ >85).
- Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
- Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.
- There is no medical detection for autism.
- Research indicates that genes are involved in the vast majority of cases.
- Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism.
- Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2 to 18 percent chance of having a second child who is also affected.
- Studies have shown that among identical twins if one child has autism, the other will be affected about 36 to 95 percent of the time. In non-identical twins, if one child has autism, then the other is affected about 31 percent of the time.
- Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Intervention and Supports
- Early intervention can improve learning, communication, and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and therapies based on its principles are the most researched and commonly used behavioral interventions for autism.
- Many children affected by autism also benefit from other interventions such as speech and occupational therapy.
- Developmental regression, or loss of skills, such as language and social interests, affects around 1 in 5 children who will go on to be diagnosed with autism and typically occurs between ages 1 and 3.
- An estimated one-third of people with autism are nonverbal.
- 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70) with significant challenges in daily function, 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85).
- Nearly half of those with autism wander or bolt from safety.
- Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied.
- Nearly 28 percent of 8-year-olds with ASD have self-injurious behaviors. Head banging, arm biting and skin scratching are among the most common.
- Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children with autism and accounts for approximately 90 percent of deaths associated with wandering or bolting by those age 14 and younger.
Associated Medical & Mental Health Conditions
- Autism can affect the whole body.
- Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects an estimated 30 to 61 percent of children with autism.
- More than half of children with autism have one or more chronic sleep problems.
- Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 11 to 40 percent of children and teens on the autism spectrum.
- Depression affects an estimated 7% of children and 26% of adults with autism.
- Children with autism are nearly eight times more likely to suffer from one or more chronic gastrointestinal disorders than are other children.
- As many as one-third of people with autism have epilepsy (seizure disorder).
- Studies suggest that schizophrenia affects between 4 and 35 percent of adults with autism. By contrast, schizophrenia affects an estimated 1.1 percent of the general population.
- Autism-associated health problems extend across the life span – from young children to senior citizens. Nearly a third (32 percent) of 2 to 5-year-olds with autism are overweight and 16 percent are obese. By contrast, less than a quarter (23 percent) of 2 to 5-year-olds in the general population are overweight and only 10 percent are medically obese.
- Risperidone and aripiprazole, the only FDA-approved medications for autism-associated agitation and irritability.
Caregivers & Families
- On average, autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year through childhood, with the bulk of the costs in special services and lost wages related to increased demands on one or both parents. Costs increase with the occurrence of intellectual disability.
- Mothers of children with ASD, who tend to serve as the child’s case manager and advocate, are less likely to work outside the home. On average, they work fewer hours per week and earn 56 percent less than mothers of children with no health limitations and 35 percent less than mothers of children with other disabilities or disorders.
Autism In Adulthood
- Over the next decade, an estimated 500,000 teens (50,000 each year) will enter adulthood and age out of school-based autism services.
- Teens with autism receive healthcare transition services half as often as those with other special healthcare needs. Young people whose autism is coupled with associated medical problems are even less likely to receive transition support.
- Many young adults with autism do not receive any healthcare for years after they stop seeing a pediatrician.
- More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. This is a lower rate than that of young adults in other disability categories, including learning disabilities, intellectual disability or speech-language impairment.
- Of the nearly 18,000 people with autism who used state-funded vocational rehabilitation programs in 2014, only 60 percent left the program with a job. Of these, 80 percent worked part-time at a median weekly rate of $160, putting them well below the poverty level.
- Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job.
- Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence to reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills.
- The cost of caring for Americans with autism had reached $268 billion in 2015 and would rise to $461 billion by 2025 in the absence of more-effective interventions and support across the life span.
- The majority of autism’s costs in the U.S. are for adult services – an estimated $175 to $196 billion a year, compared to $61 to $66 billion a year for children.
- On average, medical expenditures for children and adolescents with ASD were 4.1 to 6.2 times greater than for those without autism.
- Passage of the 2014 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act allows tax-preferred savings accounts for people with disabilities, including autism, to be established by states.
- Passage of autism insurance legislation in 48 states is providing access to medical treatment and therapies.
If you are in need of information or services they have help:
The Autism Response Team (ART) is an information line for the autism community. Our team members are specially trained to provide personalized information and resources to people with autism and their families.
How to contact ART
Call our toll-free number or send us an email – we’re available between 9am and 5pm in all time zones.
Your call will be routed to the team member for your region. We also have a dedicated Spanish language toll-free number.
En Español: 1-888-772-9050
Who can call?
We are happy to talk with people with autism, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, social workers, and everyone in between.
Even if you have no connection to autism but have a question, please feel free to reach out. We assist people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults with autism.
What do you provide?
They Autism Response Team can answer your questions, connect you with tools and resources, and help you find autism services and supports in your community.
We are not a direct service provider, so we don’t make appointments or direct referrals. However, our team will provide you with support, encouragement, and assistance with locating autism service providers in your community.
The Autism Response Team can help you help you learn more about:
- Where to get a diagnosis
- Schools and special education
- Advocacy and support
- Adult services – including post-secondary programs and employment
- Inclusion and community activities
- And much more!
Autism Speaks does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided in this email is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks has not validated and is not responsible for any information or services provided by third parties. You are urged to use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with the provision of services related to autism.
All of this information and more can be found on the autism speaks website.
Please help increase understanding and acceptance for people with autism by sharing this information. https://www.autismspeaks.org