- Virginia Johnson
Autism is a neurological disorder that is diagnosed in an estimated one in 88 children every year, usually within the first three years of life. Depending on the degree of affectedness, the children may or may not be able to communicate readily or form meaningful relationships with others. Children and adults with autism may be able to function independently in later life, or they may always require a strong support system. In April 2002, a Congressional hearing declared autism to be a national health emergency, and as awareness has grown, so have diagnosis rates.
Support and understanding for families with autistic children has also increased tremendously in the past decade. A local group, the Autism Society of Northern Virginia, has decided to embrace their children's differences and have dubbed April as Autism Acceptance Month. A very active group, they are hosting the Autism Acceptance Walk, a fundraiser with a sensory-friendly carnival which will be held from 1-4 pm on Sunday, April 28, 2013, at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds.
A Change in Classification
The behavior of some autistic children may seem strange to those who are unfamiliar with it: repetitive motions, an inability to tolerate change or to tolerate a great deal of stimulation of the senses. For many years an official diagnosis of autism was separate from one of Aspergers or PDD-NOS, but that has changed with the issuing of the latest edition of the DSM-V (the DSM is the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders) due out in May of 2013. According to an article on the Autism Research Institute's Web site:
One of the most significant changes is that the separate diagnostic labels of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS will be replaced by one umbrella term “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Further distinctions will be made according to severity levels. The severity levels are based on the amount of support needed, due to challenges with social communication and restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. For example, a person might be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. The DSM-V revision website says the reasons for using the umbrella term of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” are 1) the old way isn’t precise enough—different clinicians diagnose the same person with different disorders, and some change their diagnosis of the same symptoms differently from year to year, and 2) autism is defined by a common set of behaviors and it should be characterized by a single name according to severity.
Parents and teachers of autistic children can read widely and should continue to read as methodologies differ and research yields additional information. Consider further research at Gale's Health & Wellness Resource Center and with recommended books and Web sites from our these webliographies: