April is Autism Awareness month! In honor of the individuals, families, and advocates that work diligently to improve the quality of life for those affected by any disorder on the autism spectrum, I spoke with Mary Fornabia, Special Education Resource Specialist at Parent Network of the Capital Region and Julie Marks of Saratoga Bridges, both organizations that helped to put together the 2nd Annual Autism Information Fair and Carnival at Skidmore College on April 21, 2013.
“When a diagnosis of any disorder is given, there are usually many questions and concerns that accompany it. This is especially true when a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. For parents, searching for resources can be overwhelming,” Mary told me.
Julie Marks of Saratoga Bridges, answered 10 questions for me regarding autism facts and misconceptions.
1. According to the latest statistics, how common is autism?
The Latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control is 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism; 1 in 54 boys are diagnosed.
2. What are some of the different autistic disorders in the autism spectrum?
Aside from being diagnosed with autism there are diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disability – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
3. It is now fairly well known that there is not just one cause of autism, but a combination of risk factors. What are some of these risk factors?
This is still basically unknown, but there may be a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors.
4. How early can the symptoms of autism appear and what are some of the early symptoms?
The average diagnosis is made at around 4 years of age. The issue is that it is easy to notice things that babies and very young children DO, but difficult to notice things that are missing in development.
5. What type of beneficial therapies or activities should individuals with autism receive?
It really depends on the individual and the aspects of their development that their autism is affecting.
6. In what ways can parents help in their autistic child’s development?
Parents need to have their child evaluated as early as possible. Once a diagnosis is made they can connect with their school, their doctors and organizations which serve the autistic population to access services available to them.
7. What should a parent do if they suspect that their child may have autism?
The child should be evaluated by a neuropsychologist. Parents typically speak to the child’s pediatrician for a referral.
8. What are some common misconceptions about autism?
Some of the common misconceptions have to do with intelligence and interpersonal relationships. Individuals on the autism spectrum are typically very intelligent. Many individuals on the spectrum do have caring relationships – again, this depends on the severity of the disability.
9. If a child is diagnosed with autism and receives early intervention, can they learn coping skills that will allow them to eventually manage on their own?
It really depends on where they are on the autism spectrum. Higher functioning autistic people have a higher probability of being independent/semi-independent.
10. Are we getting any closer to finding a cure for autism?
No. We are still very far from curing autism.
So, if you are searching for answers or want to know about where to go for help if someone you know or love has been affected by autism, be sure to attend the 2nd Annual Autism Information Fair and Carnival, sponsored by Wilcenski & Pleat, LLC. on Sunday, April 21st at the Skidmore College Intramural Gymnasium from noon to 3 p.m.
The event will serve as an essential source for resources and host over 40 exhibitors with information on camp, therapeutic, and recreational programs; technological apps; education programs; and activities such as arts & crafts and a bounce house. Babysitting provided.