Autism in the Media

I read a book a few years ago called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” It was interesting to be on the inside of an Autistic boy as we went through the journey’s of his day together.  It was an interesting book.  It is a fiction book that was written by a man who has had extensive experience with Autistic people.  Although, the character in the book was not quite like Jake, I think I came to understand him a bit more.  It is a relatively short novel and I would suggest reading it if you’d like to know what it’s like for an Autistic person to live.  There is a comprehensive list of other books (non-fiction, fiction and children’s) here.

There have been several movies about Autism as well.  The most famous is probably “Rain Man,” a story about two brothers who meet for the first time later in life, one who has Autism.  The most recent movie is “Temple Grandin,” a movie about a woman who has revolutionized the meat industry and slaughter houses due to her Autism and attention to detail.

It is important to remember that not every person with Autism will be like these two portrayed in the movies.  Each person will have different symptoms and strengths.

There have been numerous television specials on Autism as well as radio programs.  The reality shows “Parenthood” had dedicated airtime to Autism as well.  See that article here.  There’s countless articles on the internet, in the newspapers and in magazines.

With all of this information, it is important to be able to do your own research about Autism and get to know each Autistic person as an individual.

Posted in Media | 15 Comments

Autism Prevention

Maybe now that you know more about Autism, you’re thinking how can I make sure that my kids don’t get it.  Because the cause of Autism is not know, it is hard to know how to prevent it.  If you would like to see a list of possible associations you can click here.

Well, the first step is to change or genes, or marry very carefully.  WebMD says that although the exact cause is unknown, it is though that about 90% of Autism is genetic.  Preventing environmental exposures during pregnancy and mom receiving vaccines against diseases such as Rubella can reduce exposure-induced Autism.

The Washington Post reported that paternal age is a risk factor in Autism.  A child born to a father in his 30’s is 1.5 times more likely to develop Autism than a child born to a father in his teens or 20’s.  The risk increases with paternal age. ABC News suggests that maternal age is a bigger risk factor than paternal age.  Either way, the younger the parents, the less risk there is for having an Autistic child.

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Treatment for Autism

Probably one of the first things a parent wants to know after they discover their child has Autism is can it be treated.  Some say that Autism is curable (again, Jenny McCarthy).  However, there is no “cure” yet for Autism.

I have noticed a huge difference in Jake since he has gotten treatment.  Even now, if he doesn’t follow his treatment I can tell within seconds of seeing him.  There’s no doubt that parents of Autistic children should be treating their children.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for Autism needs to be tailored to each child because of the varying degrees and symptoms that each child possess.  The Autism Society of America breaks down treatment options into three basic categories:

  1. Behavioral and Communication Approaches
  2. Biomedical and Dietary Approaches
  3. Complementary Approaches

Some treatments have studies to prove their efficacy and some do not.  It is important to keep in mind that studies for the treatment of Autism can be difficult due to the spectrum of Autism.  For more information, you can visit the Autism Society of America‘s website. also gives detailed information about treatment of Autism.  One thing that they point out is that dietary treatments for Autism are controversial.  Dietary allergies may help decrease symptoms and certain behaviors in Autistic children because of the decrease in physical issues.  I tend to be much more difficult to be around when I don’t feel well, so I can only imagine what eliminating allergens can do for an Autistic child.

When should treatment begin?

According to the Autism Society of America the earlier the treatment for Autism starts, the better tailored the treatment can be.  Early intervention is essential!  The earlier the treatment starts, the more likely a child is to reach functioning levels.

Posted in Treatment | 11 Comments

Autism and Legislation

Should insurance pay for treatment for Autism?  That’s a question that has many thinking.  What may be more important, it has many legislators thinking about it.  Currently, this is being debated in the Michigan Senate.  Kansas senator was awarded for his efforts in getting insurance coverage for Autism.  You can read the article here.  The Harvard School of Public Health did a study in 2006 that determined that the societal cost of an under treated Autistic child is $3.2 million dollars over their lifetime (read more here).  That is just for one child.  One mom says that it cost her $75,000 a year to treat her son.

This is information from 2008, but two years ago these were that states that offered Autism coverage (you can find the entire article here):

Posted in Introduction, Legislation, Media, Treatment | 1 Comment

What is Autism?

Because each person has a different experience, I think it’s important to define Autism.  And, to also let people know what it is not (no, my brother is not Rain Man).

The Mayo Clinic defines Autism as a group of serious developmental problems.  Technically, Autism is called Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It is important to remember that it is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are varying degrees of Autism.  All people with Autism struggle in some way with communication and interaction.

Typically, Autism is manifest in the first few years of life.  That’s how it was for my Jaker (yes, I call him Jaker).  I remember my mom, dad and uncle huddled around the video camera watching Jaker with a list of symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  After that, we pretty much knew that he was blessed with Autism (yes, I do consider it a blessing for him).

Autism is found among all races, classes and education levels.  It does not seem to affect one group of people more than another.  However, according to the Autism Society, it is four times more likely in boys than in girls.

When Jake was little “they” thought that he might have Asperger’s syndrome (which is a mild form of Autism) because he was so high functioning.  But eventually the diagnosis was decided on Autism.  He continues to do very well and is still functioning at a high level.

Here is a diagram of how Autism affects the brain from the National Institute of Mental Health.  For more information, go to their website or click here.

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Causes of Autism

There has been a heated debate for quite some time about the cause of Autism.  The bottom line is that there is not yet to be found one main cause, but is thought to have several causes.  The Mayo Clinic, The Autism Society and WebMD all suggest that it is a combination of factors including environmental and generic vulnerability.

Despite popular rumor (thank you Jenny McCarthy), vaccines do not cause Autism.  There have been studies done that do not prove such claims.  You can read the CDC’s information and more about the studies done here.  We must remember that correlation does not mean causation.

Posted in Causes | 14 Comments

Signs and Symptoms

According to Autism Speaks 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys are now being diagnosed with Autism.  We do not know why there is such an increase in cases.  Some people suggest that it is because Autism is the new fad diagnosis.

While I don’t necessarily agree with that, there may be some truth to it.  The Mayo Clinic has said that symptoms vary greatly.  Autism is a spectrum disorder so not all people with Autism will manifest the same symptoms.

Jake has a hard time with sustained eye contact.  I find myself saying to him “look at me.”  He will for a few seconds and then look away.  Although, it seems to me that he is getting better at eye contact.

Jake flaps his hands when he gets excited a lot.  He has learned a bit how to control it, but he doesn’t like to it seems like.  It seems to me that maybe he can’t get the same amount of stimulation holding his hands as when he is flapping them.  I have come to love his flapping (although I do recognize that might be harder for a parent than a sibling).

I think the first sign was his delay developmentally.  Since Jake was the last of six children in my family, my parents were familiar with normal stages in development, which Jake seemed never to reach.

One symptom that Jake used to manifest that he no longer has is an obsession with lining things up.  He used to get all of his toy cars and trucks and line them up.  It was like World War 3 if someone moved them (except, he didn’t seem to mind if I did it– part of the reason, I think, that I have a special bond with him).  This may be due to treatment and therapy, but I can assure you he’s about as clean as any other teenage boy!

I can’t help but put another picture of Jake.  This is at my wedding.  The first he is genuinely smiling.  The next, you can tell he has obviously had enough and is trying really hard not to freak out.  Bless his heart.  He just shows what everyone else is thinking!

The happy one

The not happy one.

Check out the sweet white socks!  I love that about Jake, he is who he is and he doesn’t let other people tell him what he “should” do.  What a good lesson for us all!

Posted in Symptoms | 17 Comments