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Autism | Symptoms and Resources in Spokane

  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. 
  • Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, in varying degrees -- is a complex disorder and little is known about the cause. However, it is generally accepted that it results from a mix of both genetic and environmental factors.  There is no known cause or cure for autism; but treatment including intensive behavior therapy can help many kids function better.   ("Study finds link between autism and mother's antidepressant use," CBS This Morning, December 15, 2015)
  • The condition is characterized as a disorder that affects social, motor and language development.  People with autism may look normal, but may lack self-discipline and common sense.    
  • Children who are identified early and get help have the best chance for reaching their potential, said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.  The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends autism screening for all children at age 18 months and 2 years, when most cases can be diagnosed.  According to the CDC, the average age for diagnosis is about 4 years old, which might be too late to make a difference. Children who have mild cases of the disorder can often grow out of it.   (Associated Press and the CDC, March 2012)
  • Diagnosing the developmental disorder relies on observing behavior.   Infants who are at risk of autism rarely smile, laugh, or respond to their names, and often experience delayed motor development.
  • There are many children and families who need help.  Autism likely affects roughly 1 million U.S. children and teens.

  • Riding horses benefits many people with disabilities, particularly autism and cerebral palsy. The constant movement of horses seems to require the riders to constantly adjust their balance. Riders, as young as age 3, are accompanied by a leader who helps guide the horse,  This appears to improve the rider's focus, core strength, balance, and communication skills. 

  • University of Idaho - Raven Scholars
    A university transition program for students on the autism spectrum, who struggle with social interaction and reading.  A place where someone understands how they think can make all the difference.  As those with autism spectrum disorder struggle to communicate and form relationships, these students get assistance from fellow students on navigating campus, breaking down homework, reviewing emails, and exploring social interaction.  Board games also encourage social interaction.  They are educating autistic kids that probably wouldn't have succeeded anywhere else, according to Karl Klokke, a 1975 UI graduate on the autism spectrum. 

    "Students on the autism spectrum are absolutely wonderful people.  They have potential that is unimagined, but with support they are able to become more successful, productive members of society.  I think the need for the program is very clear," said Leslie Gwartney, a former psychosocial rehabilitation specialist and coordinator of the Raven Scholars.  Students who assist the Raven Scholars often use the program to prepare for their own future, to gain an understanding of people with autism and assist people who have developmental disabilities. 

    This privately funded program may stop due to funding restrictions.  (source:  "UI group helps students on autism spectrum," by Josh Babcock, Lewiston Tribune, February 19, 2018) 

  • Some children struggle with hypertactility, a sensory disorder that amplifies reaction to contact with the external world, resulting in symptoms of anxiousness and fear. One of the main challenges faced by those with the condition involves the effects of most clothing – the texture of which can be severely irritating and often painful.  Compression clothing allows children to feel secure, and can be worn under regular clothing.  It is like a second skin, but on an autistic child, it acts like a hug.  It is usually made from a lycra/nylon blend which is smooth and stretchy and worn tight against the skin. 
    (Source:  "Compression Clothing Helps Children with Autism," by Kara Houser, LDS Sentinel, September 28, 2009, http://latterdaysentinel.com/2009/09/28/compression-clothing-helps-children-with-autism/)

  • What every Parent and Grandparent should know: 

    An estimated 1 in 68
    (14.6 per 1,000) school-aged children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Experts think there is a genetic component to autism. (Consider one example:  Alcohol exposure to a fetus changes chromosomes that affect how genes are expressed, and that can be passed to offspring across generations.  See Alcohol - Is Anyone Listening?

    Autism incidence probability at age 20 is:
    1.2% overall
    12.9% for siblings of diagnosed children
    6.8% - 8.6% for half siblings
    (Source:  "Predicting Autism," Dr. David Agus, CBS This Morning, and JAMA/CDC stats, February 16, 2017) 
  • Autism is almost 5 times more common in boys.  The rate for autism is about 1 in 88 in 2012.  Most children are diagnosed by age 8.  There is a striking gender gap in autism-- 1 in 54 eight-year-old boys is diagnosed with the disorder, compared to 1 in 252 girls of the same age.  Early intervention can improve the outcome.  Experts, including CDC researchers, think broader screening and better diagnosis have largely contributed to the increase in numbers.   (Autism Speaks, What We've Learned About Autism, 2012)

  • It is estimated that 60-65% of children in Spokane's foster care system have autism.  (Children's Home Society and The Isaac Foundation, 2017)

  • Canadian research is raising concerns about a link between autism and antidepressants.  They found that women taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy (a time that is a critical period for fetal brain development) had almost double the risk of having a child who would be diagnosed with autism by age 7.  Mothers who had taken antidepressants during their pregnancies had an 87% increased risk of having a child diagnosed with autism compared to those who did not use the drugs, the researchers concluded.  While that number may sound alarming, experts point out that it's important to keep the numbers in perspective, as the actual risk of a child developing autism is still low.  "We have to keep in mind that this is a relative risk. The prevalence of autism in the population is 1 percent," said Anick Bérard, PhD, who specializes in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy. "So that means an 87 percent increase in risk makes it go from 1 percent to about 1.87 percent."

    About 13% of American women take antidepressants during pregnancy.  Women who are depressed need to plan their pregnancies and inform themselves of the possible risks of the medications they are taking. Untreated depression can also have dire consequences for both mother and baby, as the mother may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs or have an increased risk of suicide.  Therefore, the risks and benefits of antidepressant use during pregnancy need to be considered carefully and discussed with a health are provider.  The full results are published in JAMA Pediatrics.  ("Antidepressant use in pregnancy increases risk of autism:  study,” by Angela Mulholland, CTV, Canadian TV News, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 14, 2015; and "Study finds link between autism and mother's antidepressant use," CBS This Morning, December 15, 2015)
What You Can Do
  • Visit the government’s website which tells you what you should look for in children at age 18 months and 24 months—to determine if they have an inclination toward autism.  Determine if your baby is interacting property.  Is language developing properly?  Are movements appropriate for their age?  The steps to look for it are easy.  http://cdc.gov/autism  

  • Symptoms of Autism in Young Children

    With babies and toddlers, the symptoms of autism are about what the child does NOT do at a typical age. The symptoms listed below happen at a variety of ages, but they are all things that child with potential autism may NOT do. These symptoms include:

        •    Child does not make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed);
        •    Child does not smile when smiled at;
        •    Child does not respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice;
        •    Child does not follow objects visually;
        •    Child does not point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate;
        •    Child does not follow your finger when you point at things;
        •    Child does not make noises to get your attention;
        •    Child does not initiate or respond to cuddling;
        •    Child does not reach out to be picked up.
    (source:  Mendability.

  • Recognize the symptoms.  Learn about the distinctive symptoms of autism.  (These behaviors can range from mild to disabling.)
    • difficulty with social interaction
    • limited eye contact
    • problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
    • repetitive actions or obsessive interests
    • failing to babble or point by the age of 1
    • failing to speak by 16 months, or to smile or make eye contact
    • appearance of hearing impairment
    • not knowing how to play with toys
    • abrupt loss of language or social skills
  • Early detection and intervention is key.  A few children have recovered from autism.  Applied Behavior Analysis has used therapy to help a small percentage of autistic children.  The therapy is very expensive and not widely available.  To learn more, read “The Autism Sourcebook - From A Mother Whose Child Recovered,” by Karen Siff Exkorn..  This book helps parents understand the available help.  
  • Reduce the Noise, help autistic loved ones with sensory overload enjoy shopping. Many Autistic individuals also suffer from sensory overload, overstimulation of one or more senses, making it too difficult for an individual’s nervous system to process. Learn more about sensory overload, and how to deal with it at http://www.retailmenot.com/blog/sensory-overload-while-shopping.html

  • Children and adults with autism live, go to school, work and enjoy recreational activities in Spokane.   When your child wanders away from home (which autistic children are prone to do) and does not have the ability to ask for help or even say his or her name, the situation becomes even more dire. 
Those who interact with someone with autism need special instructions to know how to work with them.  For instance, a child with autism may hide from firefighters, be unable to speak, or display inappropriate behavior with law enforcement and medical emergency personnel, making it difficult for professionals to help the person with autism.

The Autism Society has information for parents and professionals to help them identify potential public safety or criminal/juvenile justice situations; and provide possible solutions so the individual with autism, and those who care for them, can be prepared for, stay safe during, and avoid these situations.

Acknowledge learning challenges and styles of autistic children and adults. 28 Teaching tips created by an autistic student who experienced success, thanks to good teachers. https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=601

The Autism Society began the Safe and Sound initiative in 2005 to provide much-needed resources to the autism community on topics such as general safety, emergency preparedness and prevention, and risk management.  Safe and Sound presents information and strategies that are beneficial to individuals on the spectrum, their families and the professionals who work with them.  They also provide information and training to various first responders—those who are first on the scene in an emergency situation.

Visit the Autism Society’s Store to order Safe and Sound information.  An Emergency Decal can be placed on your door or automobile window to alert First Responders.  A companion piece, the Personal Information Record, provides information to help primary caregivers be prepared in case of emergency and gives on-scene tips for emergency personnel.  The Personal Information Record should be updated regularly and kept in a place where emergency responders have access to relevant information.
  • Register you child with Take Me Home, a program established throughout the U.S. which allows police officers to instantly access the name, contact information, and home address of a found child (or adult) who can not relay that information for him/herself.  They can also send a picture of your child out to all the officers if he or she disappears. To set up this program in Spokane, contact Officer Jimmy Donohoe.                         atjdonohoe@ci.pensacola.fl.us.
  • Make friends with neighbors and explain your child's disorder to them, so they can be on alert when they see your child wandering down the street.

  • Meet Julia. Introduce children to the new Muppet Julia, an autistic character on Sesame Street.  Julia is one of the gang as she interacts with other characters.  She presents a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as unique strengths and differences.  Although Julia represents the full range of children on the spectrum, she does not typify each one of them.  She is intended to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma of autism which is often found around these children.  Julia makes her entrance on April 10, 2017 on both PBS and HBO.  Additional videos featuring Julia are available online. http://autism.sesamestreet.org/

  • Books for Kids with Autism.  Kids who have autism or dyslexia really enjoy reading the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.  These books tell the stories of childhood.  The pictures in the books give the kids little islands to swim to and provide context.  They can look at the picture and read the text to get some context from that feedback.  Some of these books have been made into movies.  (Jeff Kinney, author, "The Power of Wimpy," CBS Morning News, October 31, 2016)   

  • Employ a child or adult with autism.  SAP is a software company that has recruited 40 autistic workers globally to give them a chance to use their skills.  Thorkil Sonne who promoted this project, said that while those with autism might lack the social skills recruiters are looking for, they possess many attributes high on their radar as well: intelligence and memory, the ability to see patterns and attention to detail on repetitive tasks.  Many autistic adults are jobless or underemployed. 

    "If we could use skills like I saw among people with autism in software testing, data analysis, quality control, that would be phenomenal," Sonne said. "There is no reason why we should leave these people unemployed when they have so much talent and there are so many vacant jobs in the high tech sector.”

    An important part of leveraging the unique skills of autistic workers is creating a comfort zone.  For example, employees with autism may suffer low self-esteem and feel stressed, but a solution to that is clearly stated goals.  Also, failing to "get" the water cooler talk or sarcasm can be helped by direct communication.  Jose Velasco, who heads up SAP's "Autism at Work" program, said that "What we teach is clarity in communications, empathy, try to understand, put yourself in someone else's shoes," Velasco said.   (CBS News, June 10, 2014) 
  • Estate Planning for Parents of Children with Autism. When you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the issue of planning your estate becomes more important.  Not only do you have to financially provide for that child after you’re gone, you must ensure they’ll be well taken care of and that your death does not compromise the child in any way other than the obvious emotional impact losing you will have. Contact an estate attorney to learn how to plan your estate, and prepare for your children's future.
  • Prepare before taking your child with autism to a Dentist or Orthodontist. If you make a good plan for visiting the dentist, communicate with the dental team about your family’s special needs, and incorporate techniques to soothe your child at every step of the way, you might be surprised at how well the visit goes.  Consider these suggestions for preparing your child, including sensory challenges, communicating during the visit, and special issues:  http://www.friendlydentists.org/dental-visits-child-autism/
Local Organizations
Additional Resources
Spokane Autism Cooperative
Spokane, WA
(509) 624-3323
(509) 468-9443
Spokane AC@aol.com

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
Autism spectrum disorders.

Compression Clothing Resources: 
"Compression Clothing Helps Children with Autism," by Kara Houser, LDS Sentinel, September 28, 2009, http://latterdaysentinel.com/2009/09/28/compression-clothing-helps-children-with-autism/)

Early Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Early Academy of Pediatrics (2015)
Early signs of Autism

National Autism Association

National Autism Center- NAC

“Things You Should Know About Autism & Special Education."  This helps to identify certain unique personality traits and behaviors of those with autism, and helps direct parents/caregivers/teachers in what to expect and how to provide proper care for them.   http://online.sju.edu/resource/secondary-education/things-you-should-know-about-autism-and-special-education