By Stephanie K. Brenner, MS, RD, LD/N
An estimated 730,000 individuals under 21 years old with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) live in the United States. Autism is a life-long, developmental, neurological, and spectrum disorder which impacts ones ability to communicate, play, socialize, and learn. Many people with ASD have obsessive or ritualistic behaviors, such as arm flapping, spinning or lining up objects, require structure and organization, and have a difficulty with changes in routine, often leading to tantrums. Symptoms can appear from birth to 18 months although a diagnosis may not be made until the child is 24 months to 4 years of age. The severity of symptoms range from mild to severe. Through various therapies, many individuals with ASD learn to communicate and develop leisure skills to some degree, and some will attend mainstream classes and find gainful employment. However, most individuals with ASD will be dependent on their families, friends, and society to meet their basic personal and financial needs for their entire lives.
Get Help As Soon As Possible
Research shows that early intervention services can greatly improve a child’s development. In order to make sure your child reaches his or her full potential, it is very important to get help for an Autism as soon as possible. Even if your child does not meet the criteria for ASD, or does not yet have the formal diagnosis for ASD, implementing a therapeutic program will be of great benefit to your child. Various therapies include, but are not limited to, speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapy. Ensuring your child has a proper diet and physical activity is important to his or her health and development as well.
If you think your child might have an ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns. Seeking an evaluation from a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, psychologist or child psychiatrist would provide a more in-depth evaluation of your child and help to make a diagnosis of Autism or note a developmental delay.
Under 3 Years Old Means Extra Support
If your child is under 3 years of age, you can also contact your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call and you do not need medical insurance for this evaluation. If your child is older than 3 years of age, contact your local public school system. Even if your child is not yet old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, by contacting your local elementary school or board of education they can help you have your child evaluated.
Call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities at 1.800.695.0285 or visit the NICHCY website – look for the heading “Programs for Children with Disabilities”, “Newborns to Toddlers” or “Ages 3 through 5”.
For more information on Autism, contact the National Autism Society of America or Autism Speaks, or contact any organization in your area for local social and educational and fund raising events. If in the Hudson Valley area, contact Autism Directory Service.
“I am proud to be his mother”
Remember, you are not alone. My son, Michael, was born with hydrocephalus and is visually impaired. However, at 2½, my “baby” was also diagnosed with autism. The boy who lost his speech, his ability to play, who could not be in a room with people without crying, or attend any public event without a tantrum is now thriving in a home with supports in Upstate New York, reads Torah each month, dances with seniors each week, and performs at local events, conferences and concerts frequently. I am proud to be his mother, and I still hope to dance at his wedding someday.
Michael Brenner Sings #5 Dinah
Stephanie K. Brenner, MS, RD, LD/N
Public Health Nutritionist
Co-Founder, ADS, Inc.