The CDC has released new information this week about the prevalance of autism. Up until now, the official numbers were 1 out of 110 children were being diagnosed with autism and 4 out of 5 of those are boys. More recent data suggested that the prevalance of autism was closer to 1 out of 91 (with the same ratio of boys and girls). What they discovered is frightening.
It seems that the actual numbers are 1 out of 88 children are being diagnosed with autism. This works out to 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls. This means that more children are being diagnosed with autism than are affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome ... combined.
On the positive side, we are learning more and more ways to help these children. There are therapies that often lead to successful outcomes. And, more importantly, we are learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of autism at younger and younger ages. Early intervention (before age 5, but the earlier the better) is the best tool we have in helping children affected by autism in giving them a chance to learn around the issues that they face. Early intervention does not cure autism. Nothing does. But it does give our children the best chances of success.
If you are a parent of a child up to 24 months old and you are noticing delays in your child's development, I urge you to speak to your child's pediatrician.
This is a short list, taken from helpguide.org, of red flags by age for you to be watchful of:
- By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
- By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
- By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
- By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
- By 16 months: No spoken words.
- By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.
Right now, we are very limited in preventing future cases of autism as we still don't understand what causes this condition. But we can do something to help those affected with autism. As a parent, please be diligent. Don't obsess over the expected milestones (each child does develop at their own pace), but if you are seeing consistent delays, you won't hurt your child by asking questions. But if you don't ask the questions and your child happens to have autism, that delay can be harmful.
Right now, as parents, diligence and persistence is the best tools that we have.