One in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. Utah has the third-highest number of autistic children in the nation.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about this developmental brain disorder.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex neurological developmental disability that typically appears in the first three years of life. Children and adults with autism have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction.
By diagnostic definition, most individuals with autism have difficulties initiating, establishing or maintaining interpersonal relationships. Not surprisingly, therefore, many young adults with autism, whether they live with their parents or independently of their nuclear families, are socially isolated.
Several individuals with varying degrees of ASD attend college; however, the exact numbers are unknown.
According to a study done by the Center for Disability Services at the University of Utah’s campus, the reason for the number of students being unknown is primarily because many students with ASD choose to keep it private or are open about it but unaware there are services that can help them. There are also those who meet the criteria for ASD but have never been properly diagnosed.
The cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder is unknown.
There are different levels of severity, such as Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), and a combination of symptoms associated with autism.
Available scientific research suggests a variety of combinations as potential causes of ASD. One example could be genetic components combined with exposure to environmental agents such as an infectious one (maternal rubella or cytomegalovirus). Another cause could be genetic disorders such as Fragile X, Tuberous Sclerosis or Angelman’s Syndrome.
While these are all well researched possibilities, the truth remains that the cause remains unknown.
There are several important bills moving through Congress that will have important effects on the autism community such as Keeping All Students Safe Act, Autism Treatment Acceleration Act, Achieving a Better Life Experience Act and Toxic Substances Control Act Reform.
The Autism Society of America is also encouraging people to get involved in a political way through their program “Vote 4 Autism.”
Utans are getting involved by taking part in the 2010 Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Saturday, May 1 at Heritage Park in Salt Lake City. Registration begins the day of the event at 8:00 a.m. or walkers can register early, as a team or an individual, at www.walknowforautismspeaks.org.