In recognition of Autism awareness month, the Center for Disease Control released a new report that approximately 1 in 68 children were identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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They further clarify, “It is important to remember that this estimate is based on 8-year-old children living in 11 communities. It does not represent the entire population of children in the United States.”
Regardless, the trend is increasing and families are concerned.
In 1995, when I was preparing my son for kindergarten, I knew he was different. Even though he circled the playground instead of playing with other children, his intelligence and language development was off scale. We had monitored his physical development but 20 years ago I didn’t understand the importance of social and emotional development.
We had every diagnosis possible: attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, bad parenting. Each required more doctor’s visits and new prescriptions.
By the time he was 8, the MIND Institute at University of California, Davis had been established and assisted with identifying developmental pediatricians within our health care system. He was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 8-years-old.
The good and the bad
Diagnosis is a gift and a curse. It gives parents the gift of knowledge. The curse is the unforgiving label. Many parents overlook their child’s unique behavior in fear of the label or not knowing what to do. It’s a lot to take on. Here are some suggestions on where to begin:
• Know your child: Connect with your child. Make eye contact, get on the ground to play and talk with your child. Understanding what makes them tick helps you to better understand behavior and anticipate needs.
• Understand development: Learn about your child’s development to see if they are meeting physical, social and emotional milestones. All children develop at their own pace but it is important to know they are making progress.
• Share with others: Build a support group of friends, family members and other important people in your life where you can ask questions. Not only can they give advice and ideas, they will support you in being a great parent.
• Trust your instincts: If you think something isn’t right, get more information. Although the Internet has a tremendous amount of information, it can take you down the wrong path. Balance information with input from your doctor or other specialists. There is never a bad question.
• Be an advocate: When you know your child, understand their development and have support of others you are more likely to act when you think something isn’t right. With that, you will confidently seek out whatever he or she might need.
Being my son’s advocate has challenged me to be a better person and helped him accomplish all within his reach. I am confident securing a diagnosis, identifying services and providing tools at a young age greatly impacted his future. Today he is living on his own, balancing a job and college. In the long run, all the hard work pays off.