Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and today is National Autism Awareness Day.

Autism touches more families than you might think. It occurs in every 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. If you were to do the math, that is a bunch of families.

Autistic children, they are different. But it doesn’t mean that they are any less than your own child, any less than you.

When I worked at Rock House, I was able to provide respite care to a family (very sweet family) with two Autistic boys. The boys were so smart and funny, fun to be around. The problem was, they couldn’t talk to me. I had to watch their gestures to know what they wanted. Most of the time, it really wasn’t that hard to figure out. They were a joy to work with. Their mom told me about how they had taken the boys to Disney. They had so many scrapbooks filled with memories. The boys had a blast, and they LOVE Disney. I am fairly sure that they owned and have seen every Disney movie in existence.

Autism is different. We don’t know the cause. At least with Down’s, we know that there is an extra chromosome. Autism…Well, it’s different. Everyone, so far that I have found, has a different opinion on what causes it. Though, no one can give a concrete answer.

What causes autism?

Scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.  Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder.  Studies of people with ASD have found irregularities in several regions of the brain.  Other studies suggest that people with ASD have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain.  These abnormalities suggest that ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how brain cells communicate with each other, possibly due to the influence of environmental factors on gene function.  While these findings are intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study.  The theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved.

There is no known single cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism versus neuro-typical children. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the link between heredity, genetics and medical problems. In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting a genetic basis to the disorder. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.

Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors, such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to environmental chemicals.

Genetic Vulnerability

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome, and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism. Read more about related conditions.

Environmental Factors

Research indicates that other factors besides the genetic component are contributing to the rise in increasing occurrences of autism, such as environmental toxins (e.g., heavy metals such as mercury), which are more prevalent in our current environment than in the past. Those with autism (or those who are at risk) may be especially vulnerable, as their ability to metabolize and detoxify these exposures can be compromised. Read more about environmental health and autism.

It wouldn’t be the end of my world if, for some reason, I had a child with Autism or special needs. What would kill me, is if I had a child that made fun of, picked on, or was cruel to those with special needs.autism

I just want people to try and understand. I want to understand more. It’s not a disease, it’s not something that you can just cure. It happens and you have to live with it, deal with it. There are therapies that can help. I know that when I was working at Rock House, one therapy that this family used was TREAT. Where the boys could ride horses! It was so cool.

People need to know, that just because they are different, doesn’t give you the title or right to judge or be mean. Just because they can’t talk, doesn’t mean they don’t understand. (That’s one argument that I don’t understand. “Well, she can’t hear me, so why does it matter that I say ‘retarded’ around her. It’s not like she will understand.” How do you know she can’t understand you? How do you know that she can’t hear? Just because she can’t talk? No.)

Be kind to those with special needs, be kind to the families that are touched. It could be you one day. It’s becoming more common than you think.

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About Preslee

I am diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic and Anxiety disorders, and PTSD. I write about my own personal experiences and thoughts.

Posted on April 2, 2013, in Life, Mental Health, Support and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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