Sunday, April 15, 2007
Real Autism Awareness - Early Intervention is Vital
As my son ages, he is now 11, I continue to fight for improved health, education and residential care for him and autistic persons on all points of the spectrum. In doing so I have not lost sight of the critical importance of early intervention for improving the life prospects of autistic children. I am not, and never will be, one of those who believes that in order to accept, love and find joy in my son I must accept and find joy in his autism.
To parents of newly diagnosed autistic children I say over and over again - do NOT listen to the sometimes irrational voices that tell you to accept and embrace your child's autism. Autism is by definition a disorder, a condition which brings with it many deficits in thought, communication, and behavior. True there are some savants and there are many high functioning autistic persons who have social deficits and some communication limitations. But there are also many lower functioning autistic persons for whom the reality IS life in residential or institutional care. It can be a life threatening and dangerous condition.
Love your child as he or she is, complete with his or her autism. But do not mistake your child for his or her autism. Fight to improve your child's lot in life no matter how many hand wringing, joy of autism advocates tell you that you are suppressing and rejecting your child. They will not be there to help your child when he bites himself repeatedly, when she wanders out the front door only to be found hours later, or when you are sick, elderly, infirm or deceased. They are interested in their agenda not in your child.
The most important way to help improve your child's abilities is to get as much behavioral intervention as intensively and as early as you can. ABA based intensive intervention meets the evidence based standards of federal, state, provincial, professional and academic autism organizations across Canada and the United States. To date it is the ONLY intervention that meets those high standards.
I am not alone in counseling new parents to seek as much early intervention for their autistic child as possible. There are many others. The following letter from the Journal-Standard really struck me because it was from the mother and father of an 18 year old young autistic man who also urge parents to seek early intervention for their autistic children.
J-S LETTER: Early intervention vital in autism awareness
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2007 9:44 PM CDT
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April is Autism Awareness Month. As parents of an 18-year-old son with autism, we are pleased that unlike 15 years ago, when our son was first diagnosed, the term “autism” brings thoughts other than from the movie “Rainman.” But there's still a long way to go! Today, one in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism. That is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS, combined! This epidemic needs to be addressed by all areas of society. We have a whole generation of children that have become “lost in autism.”
The following is an excerpt from www.autismspeaks.org. Please familiarize yourself with autism and its characteristics:
“Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.
Autism Spectrum Disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child's development, don't wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.
If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.”
For further information about autism, please go to www.autismspeaks.org. Also, on their Website is a very informative 13-minute segment entitled, “Autism Every Day.” It gives an accurate portrayal of what life is like for an individual with autism, as well as how it affects the family.
Steve and Marie Bernhard