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:
Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, twelve-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence but her world is further complicated by a friendship with a young paraplegic.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that its symptoms range from mild to severe and vary by individual. An autistic child might appear to be largely oblivious to his surroundings, violently overwhelmed by physical sensations, or he might seem outwardly to be simply socially awkward.