I am here to remind everyone that April is Autism Awareness Month and urge parents to look for warning signs of autism and to seek Early Intervention services for their child.
The month-long campaign, sponsored by Autism Speaks, brings to the forefront the prevalence of autism in children to educate parents about the growing rate of autism in the U.S. According to Autism Speaks, one in 110 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder — a 600% increase over the past 20 years. With appropriate early intervention services for children ages 3-5, the organization says, between 20% and 50% of children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten.
Parents should check for warning signs early on in a child’s life. If your child does not respond to their name by 12 months, does not point to objects to show interest by 14 months, and does not play “pretend” games (such as pretending to feed a doll), these may be signs of autism.
I urge parents to get Early Intervention services for their children if they do not hit important developmental milestones. Early Intervention can help prepare children to participate in the least restrictive environment once they enter kindergarten.
Other signs to watch, according to the Centers for Disease Control, include avoiding eye contact; wanting to be alone; having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings; having delayed speech and language skills; repeating the same words and phrases over and over; giving answers not related to questions; getting upset by minor changes; having obsessive interests; and flapping their hands, rocking their body or spinning in circles.
We at Child and Family Psychology work with children with autism by providing them with social skills training and coaching, as well as psychological diagnostic testing and neurofeedback, which can be an alternative to medication. We also understand that parenting children with autism presents specific challenges. That is why we offer parents training and coaching exercises to help them manage their child’s emotions and behaviors. This is especially recommended for parents whose children have Autism Spectrum Disorders. I understand that parents who have children with autism may need support and/or parent training.