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April is Autism Awareness Month—Know the Signs

April is Autism Awareness Month. The Choctaw Nation offers some information on signs to detect autism.

The Choctaw Nation is leading the way in autism education, support, and awareness in Southeast Oklahoma. Various events will be held during the month of April throughout the 10.5 counties. These events include free autism screenings, educational trainings, and resource fairs. Through the TELI project and Autism Community CARES initiative, families and community members will have the opportunity to connect with autism professionals as well as local resources.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children or adults with ASD might:

not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over);

not look at objects when another person points at them;

have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all;

avoid eye contact and want to be alone;

have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings;

prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to;

appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds;

be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them;

repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language;

have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions;

not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll);

repeat actions over and over again;

have trouble adapting when a routine changes;

have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound;

lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using).

Diagnosis

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.

For more information on autism and events scheduled, visit autismcommunitycares.com.