The Centers for Disease Control defines Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder: ASD) as “…a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Part of the mission of the CDC and many other agencies is to raise awareness and education. With March being Autism Awareness Month and the upcoming Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, it seems an appropriate time to discuss ASD.
As a public health CMH nurse, I get questioned by families who want to know how to prevent Autism or what they did to cause their child to be Autistic. Although there is no known cause of Autism, there have been studies to suggest genetic abnormalities, sex of child, certain medications taken during pregnancy and prenatal age of mother to be correlating factors contributing to the condition. Even the speculation that vaccinations may cause ASD was disproven with a study in 2013. With the growing concern and diagnosis of ASD, the public health concern rises. A current study: ‘Study to Explore Early Development’ or SEED is being conducted by the CDC. This study is one of the largest in U.S history with hopes in illuminating many answers to questions about developmental issues in children, including Autism.
Perhaps one of the most perplexing characteristics of ASD is the wide spectrum of severity. Many children who are affected have minimal symptoms such as altered social skills that may not be noticed until later childhood. Conversely, other children have more pronounced developmental delays or characteristics in early childhood that may raise red flags to healthcare providers such as speech delays or hand flapping.
There are many milestones in an infant/toddler that are indicative of normal development. Knowing this, a screening tool for developmental delays was created by the CDC with an application that can be used on your smartphone called ‘CDC Milestone tracker’ featuring a purple baby. This application empowers parents to monitor their own child’s development to bridge the gap between doctor visits/screenings.
In addition to your family physician, many local programs in Meigs County are focused on childhood health and development. Early Intervention, CMH (Children with Medical Handicaps), and Help Me Grow can help to screen your child and guide you to the next steps for your family. It is vital to recognize these delays and intervene as early as possible. Children with Medical Handicaps program does cover a short-term or ‘diagnostic’ coverage that can help cover the additional testing and assessments along with helping families navigate available resources. As the Meigs County public health nurse, I encourage any parent or caregiver to contact me with any concerns or questions.
Autism is not an uncommon, even in Meigs County. I hope that you have learned a small amount about Autism/ASD. Even helping to open one mind is helpful in acknowledging the importance of early detection and the struggles some families face.
Please join me in supporting these families this month and to #lightitupblue on April 2nd by wearing blue for Autism Awareness Cay. If you wish to donate or learn more about #lightitupblue please visit: https://www.autismspeaks.org/.
Angie Rosler, RN, is the Children with Medical Handicaps program nurse at the Meigs County Health Department. Reach her at (740) 992-6626 Ext: 1075.