Each year as April rolls around while everyone else is celebrating April Fools Day, many are gearing up for Autism Awareness month.
Autism affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. It affects boys more than girls. It’s one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the US. Costing a family on average $60,000 a year. There is no medical detection or cure for Autism. The National Institutes of Health allocates $169 million of their annual budget to Autism research.(1)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Autism are both general terms. They comprise a group of complex disorders of brain development characterized mainly by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Asperger syndrome is included in the spectrum. In some instances persons with ASD are very proficient in visual skills, music, math and art. It’s estimated that more than two million individuals in the US are affected. Statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10-17 percent annually. It has been suggested that vaccines may have a link in the equation in the last few decades. Research has shown that vaccines do not cause Autism.(2)
So what does all this mean? Increased rates means more are affected than in recent years. Chances are that you may know someone with Autism more now, than ever before. And just as each one of us is different, Autism affects each child differently. Some may be non-verbal, highly sensitive to sounds, light and some while completely functional and verbal may just be developmentally behind or lacking enough to comprehend simple directions, and yet others can be highly skilled in math or statistics. (Think Rain Man).
It not only affects the child, but also other family members, and the parents. You begin to wonder how do I handle this, am I a good parent, am I doing the right thing (which we can all relate to- but it’s compounded greatly when Autism is involved), you think about all the normal things that other families enjoy and take for granted, like vacations, and days off. The loss is great, though you don’t get to take a vacation, and your never truly off. Autism doesn’t just switch off and on, on certain days. It’s always there. Believe me, my daughter was diagnosed in 2012, when she was in fifth grade, that journey started when she was in second grade, but even before that there were signs in Kindergarten that we never realized until after the diagnosis. And there is not nearly enough room here to describe her first grade year because it was so horrible that we just put it in a box marked “Do Not Open, EVER!”
However, with that in mind here are some things to do or consider:
1. It’s not the end of the world, or your child’s life, or yours. You just take it slow, one day at a time. Celebrate the successes, relish them, and hold them close to your heart. They’re what keeps you going.
2. Signs are hard to pick up on, read up, become familiar with them.
3. Be your child’s advocate. You and only you know your child best. Be pushy if you have to. Make sure your doctor is on board. Make them do testing.
4. Insist that the school performs a complete battery of tests. Then make sure that they have the resources for your child to succeed.
5. If not seek out a school that does. Your child deserves it. They need to be around others like them. IE: Super Learning Center
6. Develop a support system. This is extremely important. You have to make yourself get away, even if it’s only for an hour. Enlist other families that can take your other children(if you have them) that they can spend a night with, they need the break away too.
7. And finally, but not last, in fact this should be numero uno: PRAY!! I don’t know your faith, or faith level but there has not been a moment where my wife and I have not given this all up to the one who created her. Prayer changes things.
Once you’ve got your support system in place you’ll realize in all the rough times, days without the meds, limited social functions, daily trials, and vacationless years you won’t want to change a thing because you love your child for who they are and not by what they can or cannot do. And no matter what it takes you would give them the moon, and cherish every moment.
Super Learning Center
Autism Makes Me Cry
Autism Scholarship Program
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