April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism diagnoses have risen 78% over the past decade. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 1 in 88 children have been identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorders (a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges), making it likely that we all know at least one family directly affected by autism.
Whether it is true that the incidence of autism has risen so dramatically, or whether it is a matter that more physicians have recognized and diagnosed it more accurately, we do know that this is a growing challenge for a greater portion of the population. As to knowing what causes Autism Spectrum Disorders to occur, there does not seem to be a conclusive answer for that yet, but many researchers are working feverishly to find out – and new theories and possible causes are proposed frequently. Vaccines have been targeted as one of the most popular likely culprits for this fairly young disorder, and that certainly seems like a good candidate, though not everyone who gets vaccinated displays symptoms of autism.
We are seeing autism highlighted through entertainment now, with autistic characters portrayed in popular television series such as Parenthood and Touch, and in Tom Hanks’ latest film, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” This is significant, because it brings the subject of this disorder to the mainstream audience, which helps with awareness.
You can read more about the disorder; the three different types, causes and risk factors, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis and treatment, at the CDC website.
If you are looking for support, tools or resources, there are some great organizations helping people living with the disorder in themselves or a loved one.
Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control