Know the Signs: Early Identification Can Change Lives
In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970’s. The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the community. Imua Family Services who has been meeting the needs or early childhood development for 66 years and the increase of autism cases has been a major contributor to the increase case load in children receiving services through Imua. In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. The spotlight shown on autism as a result of the prevalence increase opens opportunities for the nation and our community to consider how to serve these families facing a lifetime of support for their children.Imua Family Services provides early intervention services to children birth through six years of age who are experiencing a delay in development or have a diagnosed physical and/or mental condition including autism. The early intervention specialists help identify problems early in a child’s life and begin intervening techniques so that the child can grow and develop in the best way possible. The Early Intervention Program is a family-centered program where the parents/caregivers are the first and most important teachers in their child’s life.
Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).
Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:
• Lack of or delay in spoken language
• Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
• Little or no eye contact
• Lack of interest in peer relationships
• Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
• Persistent fixation on parts of objects
Early intervention specialists at Imua work alongside parents and other important people in the child’s life providing support and guidance. They help the adults enhance child development and social-emotional wellbeing within and across all ordinary, daily life routines and activities. Early intervention strives to advance the child’s development by providing appropriate individualized services, which assist parents/caregivers with obtaining the tools they need to help with that development, while bearing in mind the well-being of the entire family.
“It is no coincidence that the Imua Family Services largest fundraiser Fantasia Ball is April on April 13 as a way to kick off the Week of the Young Children, we wanted to use our event to bring the week into attention and the minds and hearts of our community” says Dean Wong, Executive Director.