April is celebrated as World Autism Awareness Month and the second day of the month is observed as World Autism Awareness Day. There is no easy way to define autism as it is, in fact, a range of complex neuro-development disorders (autism spectrum disorder – ASD), characterised by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive behaviour patterns. Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form.
Here are five things you need to know about ASD:
- According to the March 27, 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, an estimated 1 in 68 children (14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) has an ASD. This marks a 30 per cent increase over the estimates reported in 2012 of 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000 eight year olds).
- Boys are almost five times more likely to have an ASD than girls.
- Thus far, no specific cause has been identified for the disorder. Some scientists suggest that it is caused by genetics; others say environmental factors are to blame and some researchers have found irregularities in several regions of the brain, with abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters .
- There is no cure for autism, but it can be treated and managed through various therapies and behavioral interventions. Doctors may also prescribe medications for treatment of specific autism-related symptoms, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- General statistics indicate that of the 45,000 births per year in Jamaica, 500 babies are born with some form of ASD.
For more information, visit the Jamaica Autism Support Association.
Read the following Gleaner articles:
- Autism: A Global Epidemic by Dr Neil Gardner
- Autism Spectrum Disorders – What Everyone Should Know by Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughn