April is Autism Awareness Month

Over 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.  The number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising, however this could be due to better detection and reporting of autism opposed to a real increase in the number of cases.  Autism is actually a group of complex disorders of neurodevelopment defined by impaired social interaction, language and behavior.  Some children show signs early in infancy or they can become suddenly withdrawn or aggressive.  Every child is likely to have a unique pattern of behaviors but here are some of the common symptoms.

Social skills:

·         Fails to respond to his or her name

·         Has poor eye contact

·         Appears not to hear you at times

·         Resists cuddling and holding

·         Appears unaware of others’ feelings

·         Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her “own world”


·         Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months

·         Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences

·         Doesn't make eye contact when making requests

·         Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech

·         Can't start a conversation or keep one going

·         May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them


·         Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping

·         Develops specific routines or rituals

·         Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals

·         Moves constantly

·         May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car

·         May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain

What causes autism?

Although the cause is unknown certain risk factors have been identified.  Boys are 3-4 times more likely to develop autism than girls.  Family history also plays a role, as siblings of those with autism are about 25 times more likely to be autistic than the general population.

Environmental causes, vaccines, and other disorders like fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Tourette syndrome and epilepsy also play a role.  They have also been studies which show that having a father older than 40 year increases a child’s risk of autism.

What type of treatment is available?

Early initiation of treatment is the key to successful therapy.  Research now suggests that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism.  If your child exhibits any behaviors associated with autism, speak with your doctor about screening for autism, the earlier your child can receive therapy the better.

Every child has a unique set of symptoms and thus requires individualized therapy to target their particular challenges. General rules for success in therapy include:

·         At least 25 hours of structured therapeutic activity per week

·         Quality teachers and therapist to deliver intervention

·         Therapy is guided by well-defined learning objectives, with regular evaluation

·         Program provides the child with the opportunities to interact with typically developing peers

·         Family is involved in interventions, both delivery and decision