Each year, the month of April is celebrated as Autism Awareness Month across the United States. According to the Autism Society, Autism Awareness month was started almost 25 years ago in an “effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.” This April, if you are a parent, family member, teacher, or neighbor of someone with Autism, take the opportunity to learn more about Autism and what you can do to help those living with Autism to enjoy a better quality of life.
What Is Autism?
Although most people have heard of Autism, much of what they have heard about it falls into the “myths and misperceptions” category. To start with, “Autism” is not a single disorder but a broad range of disorders. For this reason, people living with the disorder are now said to “be on the spectrum” and “Autism” is now more commonly referred to as “autism spectrum disorder.” Autism spectrum disorder is defined by Autism Speaks as “a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.” It is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it can affect people in different ways and to varying degrees. Someone who is on the high functioning end of the spectrum might not exhibit many symptoms whereas someone who is at the other end of the spectrum is easily recognizable as suffering from autism.
What Are the Signs of Autism?
Signs of Autism typically appear early on in a child’s life, affecting the child’s ability to communicate with other children or adults. A child on the Autism spectrum might exhibit any of the following behaviors to varying degrees:
- Delayed learning of language
- Difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation
- Difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning
- Narrow, intense interests
- Poor motor skills
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Sensory sensitivities
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
Facts and Figures about Autism
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we should all try to learn something new about the disorder that we didn’t previously know. The following facts and figures about autism spectrum disorder may include something you don’t already know:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
- An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.
- Around one third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
- Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
- Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.
- About 40% of children with autism do not speak. About 25%–30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others might speak, but not until later in childhood.
- Autism prevalence figures are growing
- Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
- Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
- Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
- There is no medical detection or cure for autism; however, when detected early it can be treated with a great degree of success
- Autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.
Autism Awareness Month
There are a number of ways that you can get involved in Autism Awareness Month. To find out about Autism Awareness Month activities in your area, find an affiliate on the Autism Society’s website. You may also wish to sign up for their newsletter if you are personally affected by Autism or purchase an autism awareness puzzle ribbon. If you are the parent of a child with Autism, now is the perfect time to update your estate plan by including a special needs component.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how special needs planning might fit into your estate plan, contact an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.