Editorial: Autism on the rise

By Brian Loschiavo
April 30, 2009

One autistic child is born every 20 minutes in the United States. This is not just a problem, it is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation. The worst thing about autism is that no one knows the cause. There are only theories. April is Autism Awareness Month. This is the time to spread the word about the disorder.

Autism is a condition that not only affects the child but also every member of the family. The parents first have to come to the realization that their child is different and, in most cases, will not develop like their peers.

The parents need to get used to all of the schooling and therapy that their children will go through. A lot of time and patience is needed to raise a child with autism. Finances are also something that can become a challenge for parents who are trying to do the best for their son or daughter.

Siblings and peers need to accept those with autism. Autistic children need to be accepted and understood especially because the condition is so common now.

To understand the seriousness of this issue, take the time to think about this fact. One in 150 children is diagnosed with autism and more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. Autism cannot go unnoticed anymore.

Autism is just one of five types of autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are characterized by impaired social integration, communication skills and a limited range of activities and interests. Each disorder varies from person-to-person.

Research on the mechanisms of autism and the causes are heavily underway. The research is looking at possible genetic, infectious, immunological and environmental causes.

Even though there are no known causes, many researchers think these disorders are likely linked to genetics, suggesting that some people have a genetic predisposition for the disorder. Others think the causes involve abnormal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. In families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second with the disorder is approximately five percent, or one in 20, which is greater than the rest of the population.

One of the misunderstandings among the public about autism is that the public has predetermined judgment of what they feel a person with autism should be like. When people think of autism they think of The Rainman movie or other media that depict an autistic person. Very few know that people can suffer from a wide range of autistic conditions. Autism needs to be recognized more and everyone needs to be aware of it and what it is.

Looking at the staggering statistics should make everyone who hopes to have children someday want to understand the disorder more and do something to help the cause. It’s frightening to think that each year the statistics rise and it’s very possible that autism could affect your life in the future.

What are you going to do about it? Get educated and get informed. To learn more, or to donate to the cause, go to www.autismspeaks.org.

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Brian Loschiavo

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