(Part One of a series)
April is Autism Awareness Month.
This week, through a series of articles, 1470 and 100.3 WMBD will be looking at autism.
We will explore what autism is and the treatments and services available to children and parents. There are warning signs and those will be explained. We will look at the stigma attached to the behavior of a child with autism and hear a parent’s story and learn the struggles her child and family experience every day. And, what the community as a whole can do to help in the understanding of autism.
First, we begin with the basic question…What is autism?
“Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the main parts of your brain,” said Kaitlyn Linsley, board certified behavioral analyst with Easterseals of Central Illinois. “Mostly communication, sensory perception and social awareness. It can be a disability that’s totally separate on its own, it can be with other disabilities. But, you don’t necessarily have a cognitive disability which is a common misconception.”
Autism is a more common disability than you might think.
“It’s very prevalent in our society today. Right now one in 59 children have autism,” Linsley said.
Linsley said the average age of an autism diagnosis is three.
“Typically for kids with autism they have pretty normal development up until age two or three, and then you tend to see regression, especially in language or communication skills,” Linsley said.
Linsley says while autism is so prevalent in society, it’s still difficult letting a parent know their child has autism.
“A lot of people have heard the word ‘autism’ but don’t know what it means. So, it’s one of those unknowns,” Linsley said. “Your kid can get diagnosed with something medical and it’s a lot easier. Autism doesn’t have a blood test, it doesn’t have a medical diagnosis. You’re going through a lot of assessments and evaluations. There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of back and forth with that.”
Additionally, Linsley said, autism is a life-long disability.
“Some kids might need some therapy for a year or two and they’re back on track and that’s great. That may be true for kids with autism but they’re still going to have autism their entire life,” Linsley said. “Sometimes knowing it’s a lifetime diagnosis can be really difficult to swallow.”
“As therapists, our end goal is you don’t need us,” Linsley said. “We work really hard with you and we love our time with you but eventually you don’t need us anymore. That’s because we give the kids the skills they need, the coping mechanisms they need, as well as the family, so they can lead as typical of a life as they would without an autism diagnosis.”
Tomorrow, in Part Two of our series, autism’s warning signs.
More information concerning autism can be found HERE.
More information concerning Easterseals of Central Illinois and autism services available can be found HERE.