Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Fear Of Autism

Happy Exceptional Children’s Week everyone! This week, many school systems around the country are attempting to educate the public about children with disabilities, as well as trying to garner support for special education. Much of the work that I do involves identifying reasons for why children may not be performing as well as might be expected. I always feel privileged to help families unlock underlying issues. However, this is a double edged sword because for many parents, coming to terms with the fact that their child has a disability is very difficult.
On learning that their child may have a disability, many often parents react in similar ways. One of the first reactions is that of denial -- "This cannot be happening to me, to my child, to our family.” Anger, is another emotion that I’ve witnessed. Sometimes it is directed at me…the one who first indicates that their child may have an underlying condition. I believe that much of this is fueled by fear. Fear of the unknown…Will my child be okay? Can they learn? Are they normal? What quality of life will my child have? Is there something wrong with me?

One of the childhood diagnoses that has been widely talked about is autism. It is defined by the Autism Society Of America (ASA) as: "a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life, and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities." There is a lot of debate regarding what causes autism. We have heard the debate played out in the news… Is autism genetic….or the result of medical intervention or the environment?  Researchers continue to attempt to figure this out. However, reportedly the rate is 1 in 110 births, and is (reportedly) the fastest growing developmental disability.

In honor of Exceptional Children’s Week, I would like to remind parents that a disability does not have to be limiting. Did you know that many people…many who you might idolize…are very famous and successful? For example, Daryl Hannah, the actress best known for her roles in Splash, Blade Runner and Kill Bill was reportedly diagnosed as a child as being ”borderline autistic.” Also, Satoshi Tajiri, who created of PokeMon, is also reportedly autistic.

Early intervention is key! So if you if you suspect that your child’s development is not progressing as expected, or if you are seeing a regression in skills….please seek the guidance of a professional. Oftentimes you will be reassured that nothing is out of the norm. However, for a smaller percentage of parents, School Psychologists…Pediatricians…and Developmental Specialists may provide the needed recommendations that could make a considerable difference.

For more information about autism, please visit the Autism Society!

Happy Parenting.

...An honest and realistic blog for parents about issues that matter most…children and families!

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