Community support helps families with autistic children
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Statistics show that more children than ever have a diagnosis of ASD. In fact, in just more than 10 years the numbers have grown exponentially. In 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in every 150 children had an ASD diagnosis. By 2010, nearly one in 68 children had an ASD diagnosis.
With the growing number of children diagnosed, it is likely most people know someone with ASD. However, its prevalence doesn’t always make it easy for families socially. Community life is an essential part of a family’s well-being, especially if your child has ASD.
“Nationally, there is a growing sense of community and inclusion in which many restaurant and store owners, barbers, children’s theaters, places of worship, sports leagues and other community service providers are finding clever and compassionate ways to successfully include and accommodate individuals with autism,” explains Karen Fried, director of the Pediatric Developmental Center at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
“Oftentimes, all it takes is for the parent to reach out to their grocery store’s manager, for example, to brainstorm ideas for making the shopping trip more successful,” says Fried. This type of troubleshooting goes a long way to help the family feel connected and supported in their local community.
Parents can also partner with their child’s therapists to teach the child particular community skills. “There are solid, evidence-based behavioral strategies to teach community skills to individuals with ASD,” says Fried.
A good source of information for parents and therapists is the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, which helps parents and therapists find interventions that have scientific support and distinguish them from interventions that have little or no scientific support.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and continuing research is providing hope every day. A report in JAMA Psychiatry highlights the explosive numbers of research studies being conducted over the last decade to better understand ASD, search for risk factors and causes, and develop advancements in diagnosis and intervention.
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