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Keep in mind: Month seeks to increase autism awareness

Published: April 17, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 17, 2014) -- The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the community.

National Autism Awareness Month helps people recognize the growing need for concern and awareness for autism.

What is autism?

Autism is a brain disorder that often makes it hard to communicate with and relate to others. With autism, the different areas of the brain fail to work together. The person with autism has problems with both communication and relating to others. Early diagnosis and treatment have helped more and more people reach their full potential.

Autism statistics

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in every 88 U.S. children and one in 54 boys has autism. At the new 2008 prevalence rate of one in 88 American children, autism costs the nation about $137 billion a year. It has been estimated that 45 percent of Americans with autism have an intellectual disability. The lifetime cost for each person who has an intellectual disability related to autism is $2.3 million, Knapp and Mandell estimated. 

Symptoms of autism

Symptoms of autism can be minimal or severe, and they can vary dramatically from one child to another. Autistic children may struggle to maintain or completely avoid eye contact, prefer to play alone, avoid cuddling or touching, have poor speech or communication abilities or not develop speech at all. They may rub surfaces repeatedly, have a heightened or lowered response to pain or display intense tantrums.

Other symptoms of autism may appear to indicate other disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Tourettes, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which can make an accurate diagnosis difficult. Studies show autism affects boys more often than girls.

Autism in military Families   

According to Autism Votes, many military Families are impacted by autism. Based on current prevalence rates, as many as 12,000 children in the military Families (active duty, Reserve and Guard) may have autism. These Families are substantially affected by the financial and emotional costs of raising a child with autism.

Military life is particularly difficult for children with autism and their Families. Given the frequent duty station changes and social turmoil of military service, military children with an autism spectrum disorder often face additional challenges with which their civilian counterparts do not have to contend.

A specific feature of autism is extreme difficulty with life, routine or environmental changes of any kind. These children need a set routine, stability, and continuity of services and relationships. Military life, by its nature, provides few of these needs. This situation is likely to weaken the morale of the parent serving the military, as well as the caretaker at home.

Seeing signs?

Facing an autism diagnosis can be scary, but doctors and support services are here to help with the process. The primary care manager is the first step. Then the Family should enroll in the EFMP. If you think your child may have autism or is showing signs of developmental delays, talk to your primary health care provider, or contact Lyster Army Health Clinic Patient Appointment Service at 255-7000 and request an appointment.

Resources 

Family pediatrician and Early Intervention Services can assist with diagnosis. Support resources include:

Supporting Autism Awareness Month

Attend the special education workshop April 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Commons, Bldg. 8950, on Seventh Avenue. The topic is individualized educational plan. For child care information and to register, call 255-9277.

Attend the EFMP autism workshop April 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Commons, Bldg. 8950, on Seventh Avenue. The topic is three behavioral strategies every parent or child should know. For child care information and to register, call 255-9277.

Visit the autism display at the post exchange mall April 23-30, where information and educational materials will be available.

Visit the autism bibliography display at the Center Library all month.  

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/124288/

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