ORLANDO. FLA. — April is National Autism Awareness month and currently more than three-point-five million people in the United States have autism spectrum disorder, that’s one in every 68 births. However, many people still don’t understand what it’s like to live with it or have a child living with it.
ASD, or autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis that describes a number of different symptoms and behaviors. Every individual with autism is different and symptoms can vary widely, including things, you can’t see.
“There aren’t those externalizing over behaviors like maybe having tantrums or having a big collection of something or just not making any eye contact, more subtle things can happen too,” Julia Parish-Morris, PhD, and assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
There are no medical tests for Autism. Instead, doctors use behavior and stimulus diagnostic tests. Children are diagnosed very early and can be as young as 18 months. The CDC reports boys are four-point-five times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. However, experts say this could be because girls are better at “masking” where they suppress or hide their symptoms.
“We don’t have a good understanding of what autism looks like in girls,” Parish-Morris shared.
There is no cure for Autism, but early interventions may help kids thrive. Free evaluations are available in every state through the public early childhood system. Right now, researchers are working on new ways to give kids better lives. Vanderbilt University is developing a hormone blocking drug that could improve socialization, stress, anxiety, and aggression.
Experts still don’t know what exactly causes Autism, but most agree that it’s a combo of genetic and environmental factors. Red flags for parents include lack of verbal skills or response to being spoken to, repetitive behaviors or obsessions with a toy or item, trouble making eye contact or expressions, and if they haven’t played pretend by 18 months.