What Is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability of great complexity; signs appear during early childhood typically and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shining on autism as a result has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. In June 2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism is as great as $2.4 million. The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. (http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/, April 20, 2018.)
Faces of Autism by Angela Parker
People often ask me, “What is Autism to you?”
Well, I’d have to say that Autism, to me, is a lot of different things. It’s been many things to me over the last 18 years. It has been tantrums, late nights, stimming (short for self-stimulatory behavior, behaviors that may include hand- flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases), schedules, worried days, Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings, therapy sessions, repetition, behaviors, among many other things.
However, it has also been big smiles, goofy jokes, huge laughs, unexpected hugs, reaching goals that we thought were unattainable, unimaginable pride and more love than any mother could ever hold in her heart. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
I never knew that my whole world would be surrounded by the most awesome kids, including my own son, niece and nephew.
I’ve been blessed to not only have a son with Autism, but also a niece and nephew. I believe that God only gives His most precious gifts to those He trusts the most. I keep asking God if He’s sure He trusts me so much.
The challenges began 18 years ago in January and haven’t stopped, but God has seen us through every step of the way. One of our latest struggles, for instance, was Algebra 1. Without it, my son, Christian, couldn’t graduate.
I worked as hard as I could with my son to get him through Algebra 1 so he could graduate, and now he’ll be graduating in December. I couldn’t be more pleased. This will be the most exciting moment of my life. Words can’t describe it.
My niece, Kylie, and nephew, Zach, also have an amazing mom that is an awesome Autism advocate for them. I love her for that. They have such a supporting mom. Not all Autism Spectral Disorder (ASD) kids have that luxury, unfortunately.
Two years ago I was blessed again to be able to start working with Developmentally Delayed children at a place called Early Autism Project. God blessed me with the ability to learn quickly on the job. Before I knew it, I was a Behavior Therapist working with some of the most amazing kids ever. The kids and the families loved having us there because they knew we were there to help.
So, when someone says “What is Autism?” I have to ask them if they mean scientifically or personally. Because the meanings are so different for me and a lot of other Autism caregivers.
By Angela Parker, special to SGNScoops website.
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