The increasing rate of autism should be everyone’s concern, not just those who have a family member with the diagnosis. At the present rate, 1 in every 59 children is diagnosed with autism. There is a spectrum according to the severity: those on the high end of the spectrum are able to function independently while those on the lower end require constant care and supervision. Any child could receive the diagnosis regardless of socioeconomic class, color, or religion. Anyone who feels it is not “their problem” may one day be in for a big surprise—if that person does not have a child with autism, then a sibling’s child, a niece or nephew’s child, or a grandchild could have this developmental disorder. Therefore, autism should be everyone’s concern.
The following is a list of questions people may have. I will try to answer them as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Q. What is autism? According to the website Autism Speaks (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism), “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.” As every individual is unique, autism affects each person differently.
Q. What are some telltale signs of autism? Signs include
- Repetitive behaviors like hand flapping, rocking, jumping
- Inability to make eye contact
- Speech difficulties
- Repetition of words (echolalia)
- Inability to participate in social interaction
- Sensitivity to sounds, smells, and tastes
- Trouble understanding the feelings of others
- Agitation with schedule changes
- Unusual mood patterns, sleep difficulties
- Fixation on particular topics
- Limited attention span
In my novel True Mercy, one of the main characters is an eighteen-year-old man with autism named Adam. I include many characteristics of autism in my portrayal of Adam like hand lapping, rocking, echolalia, sensitivity to smells, unusual mood patterns, and fixations on certain topics.
Q. When do signs of autism appear in children?
According to Autism Speaks, signs of autism may occur from the first few months of life to as late as 2 or 3 years old.
HelpGuide (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/does-my-child-have-autism.htm/ ) has compiled a list of early signs of autism:
The baby or toddler doesn’t:
- Make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at
- Respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Follow objects visually or follow your gesture when you point things out
- Point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Make noises to get your attention
- Initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up
- Imitate your movements and facial expressions
- Play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
- Notice or care if you hurt yourself or experience discomfort
Q. What can parents do if they notice these signs?
If a parent notices their child has developmental delays, it is vital they seek the advice of their child’s pediatrician to find out if testing is needed. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner the child can receive early intervention, which is critical for the child to make gains in their development. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the therapy that has proven to help children with autism make significant improvements.
Q. What are some resources to get help?
I gathered some resources but this list is by no means exhaustive.
Autism Bedforshire http://www.autismbedfordshire.net
Autism Speaks http://www.autismspeaks.org
Autism Society http://www.autism-society.org
Autism Web http://www.autismweb.com
Autism Hwy http://www.autismhwy.com
I had intended to conclude my blog post at his point, but when Amy Tobik of Autism Parenting Magazine (https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/supportive-states-raising-autism-child/?utm_source=Autism+Parenting+Magazine+Contributors&utm_campaign=71fe1ce660-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_18_01_56_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_782e0cc91d-71fe1ce660-96778409 ) sent me this article by Krystal Rogers-Nelson, I couldn’t resist including it. She provided a list in the order of the most supportive states for raising a child with autism.
The three main factors considered for these rankings include:
- State laws requiring insurance coverage of ABA therapy (points were weighted based on age limit, coverage limit, and types of insurers required to provide services)
- If a state is part of the ADDM Network (Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which estimates the number of children living with autism and other developmental disabilities in various places in the United States).
- Grants available to individuals and families in the specified state
|Rank||State||Age Limit?||Coverage Limit?||ABA Therapy Requirement for ALL Insurers in State||ADDM Network||Grants Available|
|9||New Hampshire||21||Varies based on age||No||No||Yes*|
|18||DC||No||limited to cost of similar therapy||No||No||Yes|
|27||Florida||No||$36K, $200K lifetime||Yes||No||No|
|33||Kansas||12||limits based on hours||Yes||No||No|
|34||Michigan||18||varies based on age||Yes||No||No|
|36||South Dakota||18||varies based on age||Yes||No||No|
|37||Texas||9||varies based on insurance plan||Yes||No||No|
|38||Alaska||21||varies based on insurance plan||No||No||No|
|41||Arizona||16||varies based on age||No||Yes||No|
|45||Tennessee||12||varies based on insurance plan||No||Yes||No|
|48||Montana||18||varies based on age||No||No||No|
|50||New Mexico||19||$36K, $200K lifetime||No||No||No|
|51||Idaho||n/a||n/a||No Law Requirement||No||No|
Multiple grants available for this state.
**Can’t exceed the cost of treatment allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
***Must start treatment before age 9.
Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families coping with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy is for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IngramSpark, and Smashwords.
Need help with blog content? Please contact me through my website, www.idellekursman.com.