My wife Julie Lorenzen wrote the following and sent it to the local paper. I thought I would share it here on my blog.
I want Isabella and Gratiot counties and surrounding areas to know that April is Autism Awareness month. Autism is a complex developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with speech, motor skills, social awareness and sometimes sensory difficulties. It’s a spectrum disorder affecting people (three out of four are boys) in varying degrees. The Center for Disease control reports that autism affects 1 in 150 births. Although autism can be hereditary, there are many other suspected causes.
It is important to recognize the signs of autism early, because early intervention is crucial during childhood. Unfortunately, it can take years before autism is diagnosed. In high functioning persons, autism may be hard to identify as certain children may not have all the warning signs that are published in books or on websites.
The medical community in particular needs to work on identifying this disorder. My family doctor in Lansing had no idea what was going on with my child. A pediatrician here in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan immediately used a diagnostic tool that identified my son as having the disorder. He was almost five.
Unfortunately, the specialist we were referred to in Ann Arbor prefers to see children at two or three years of age and usually prescribes therapy (based on floor time) that is designed for children up to age seven. Delaying things further was an eleven-month waiting period for an appointment. Further, the treatment prescribed was a therapy costing $300 a month, which insurance does not cover.
Families of children with autism need support from an educated community (not just in the medical field) in order to raise a child that will, with a lot of hope and hard work, be able to contribute to society. For more information on autism, see http://www.autism-society.org/.
Mt. Pleasant, MI
From the ASA site:
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. One should keep in mind however, that autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees - this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention programs.
Autism is one of five disorders that falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development.”
The five disorders under PDD are:
- Autistic Disorder
- Asperger's Disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
- Rett's Disorder
- PDD-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Each of these disorders has specific diagnostic criteria which been outlined in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).
Prevalence of Autism
Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 1 in 150 births (Centers for Disease Control Prevention, 2007). Roughly translated, this means as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. And this number is on the rise.
Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year. At this rate, the ASA estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.
Autism knows no racial, ethnic, social boundaries, family income, lifestyle, or educational levels and can affect any family, and any child.