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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian-O'Neill: Autism still defies answers

  • Autism Speaks. We have seen the television spots and heard the messages on our radios. Two million American children are diagnosed with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month and the Autism Speaks organization has designated April 25 as Wear It Blue Day, a campaign to “raise awareness and show support for families affected by autism.” Autism, what do you know? T or F?

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  • Autism Speaks. We have seen the television spots and heard the messages on our radios. Two million American children are diagnosed with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month and the Autism Speaks organization has designated April 25 as Wear It Blue Day, a campaign to “raise awareness and show support for families affected by autism.” Autism, what do you know? T or F?
    1. Autism is one disorder.
    2. About 2 million U.S. children have autism.
    3. Childhood immunizations cause autism.
    Autism is a general term referring to a spectrum of developmental brain disorders characterized by difficulty with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The degree of symptoms is different for every child. Over 40 percent have average or above average intelligence. Every single public school in the United States has students with autism.
    The recognition and categorization of disorders under the umbrella of autism is evolving but currently include autism, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger syndrome. In May 2013 these disorders will be under one umbrella, autism spectrum disorders ASD, which is much more descriptive and less confusing.
    The CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children has ASD. Boys are affected more than girls for reasons that are unknown. 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with ASD in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 20 percent of kids with ASD are diagnosed before school, usually by physicians after parents detect some evidence of developmental delay. Teachers may be the first to recognize developmental delays when a child enters kindergarten or 1st grade. Early diagnosis and implementation of behavioral and cognitive therapies is key for long-term improvement. About 50 percent of kids with ASD are on some medication to help with symptoms.
    The diagnosis of ASD has dramatically increased over the past two decades, due in part to improved diagnostic methods and increased awareness. It is thought that a combination of genetic predisposition and environment are major factors but details are currently elusive. We really do not know the specific cause or causes for ASD. The role of environment in ASD is not specifically known. There are some factors that may increase risk including advanced maternal and paternal age, maternal health during pregnancy, difficult labor decreasing oxygen to the baby
    It is the marriage of medical science coupled with the grassroots strength of passionate, unwavering parents and families that will eventually lead us to the answers we seek about causes, best treatments and cures for autism. There is so much we simply do not know about ASD. The National Institute of Mental Health has designated Autism Centers of Excellence to advance our understanding. We are learning and we need to accelerate our rate of knowledge acquisition through increased funding of research.
    The mission of Autism Speaks is to improve the lives of all those on the autism spectrum. It is a formidable mission but never underestimate the will of mobilized parents and families. Wear It Blue on April 25 and show your support. Autism Speaks. All of us should listen.
    Page 2 of 2 - Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. F.
    For additional information access:
    National Institute of Mental Health www.nimh.nih.gov
    Autism Speaks www.autismspeaks.org
    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development www.nichd.nih.gov
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-ONeill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.
     
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