Understanding Every Child’s Unique Needs As Part Of World Autism Awareness Day

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s World Autism Awareness Day, and new research is helping parents better understand their child’s unique needs.

But what happens when that child grows up?

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu sat down with Lisa Goring, Chief Program and Marketing Officer for the Autism Speaks organization, who offered up some great advice for parents.

To commemorate World Autism Awareness Day, landmarks across the globe are “Lighting It Up Blue.” From the Empire State Building at home to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, famous landmarks will be bathed in blue to promote autism awareness. For the first time ever, the White House will also be taking part.

The United Nations first designated April 2 as World Autism Awareness day ten years ago.

The United Nations has declared that April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. (ART4STOCK/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO)

What you need to know on World Autism Awareness Day

If all you know about autism is that “Sesame Street” has introduced its first character with the disorder, you should wise up.

So start today, April 2, which the United Nations established as World Autism Awareness Day to raise consciousness about this lifelong brain development disorder that affects 1 in 68 children and impacts social interactions, learning and communication.

We asked autism groups what you need to know.

“I can’t give you a feel-good story on autism,” said Fournier.

“We need to do a much better job when it comes to services and support for children and adults with autism. We need meaningful resources and help for individuals and families. Don’t just talk about doing something to help. Reach out to families that need help.”

“We’ve made tremendous advances through research. We’ve identified genes and environmental factors associated with autism,” said Singer.

“There are new interventions we know are effective. But research is under threat with the current government cutting NIH funding for research. That will have a negative effect on people with autism. This is the time to double down on research, not to cut it.”

“We must increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and their families,” said Volpe, adding that the group does this through its Light It Up Blue campaign.

“Children and adults with autism might have unique strengths and abilities that help them excel in school or the workplace, but they might also have significant challenges with social interaction ... serious co-occurring conditions, highly restricted interests and, in some cases, repetitive behaviors or sensory sensitivities.

"We must do more than raise awareness — we must call attention to the diverse needs of people with autism and the challenges they face”

“The greatest message ... is that every person who has an autism diagnosis must be fully respected, valued and be provided a life of the highest dignity,” said Badesch.

“Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Poverty, denial of appropriate and required publication public education, unemployment or significant underemployment, denial of housing options, and way more are unfortunately common characteristics of autistic individuals.”

“People with autism are much more aware and intelligent than they appear through our observations,” said McClennen.

“The focus should not be on a cure but on providing support and accommodation in society so that people with autism can express their intelligence and abilities.”

World Autism Awareness Day: 5 things you didn’t know about autism

April 2 marks World Autism Awareness Day – 2017 is the ninth time global health officials are marking the occasion since the United Nations created the annual awareness day.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of only three health issues recognized by the international body with its own day. Doctors are still learning more about the disorder, what it causes and how to treat it. While Canadians are familiar with ASD, it has its fair share of misconceptions.

Here are five things you didn’t know about autism.

Misconception: Autism is a rarity

One in 68 children fall under the autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency says that’s a 30 per cent jump from its last estimate of 1 in 88 children – the latest calculations mean autism is more than twice as common as officials said it was years ago.

It’s hard to decipher why cases are on the rise but experts say that it could be because of a raised awareness and doctors who can identify cases better now, especially in children with mild problems.

There are no blood or biological tests for autism. It’s diagnosed by making judgments about a child’s behaviour.

The CDC says that autism affects 1.2 million U.S. children and teens. U.K. health officials say one in every 100 people is living with autism.

Health Canada points to global statistics – “an average prevalence” of about one per cent – but it’s working on a national surveillance system for autism.

Autism affects one out of 42 boys and one in 189 girls, according to estimates.

Misconception: People living with autism deal with the same symptoms

Autism spectrum disorder includes a group of complex disorders of brain development, according to Autism Speaks Canada. In May 2013, the DSM-5 – dubbed the mental health bible for health care professionals – merged autism disorders into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.

People with autism are stereotyped as having special abilities, but this isn’t across the board. Some statistics suggest that about one in 200 people have special abilities while others peg it at 10 per cent.

Some kids, for example, could excel with exceptional memory, music, or computer skills. Others could have significant impairments with social relationships or communication.

Each diagnosis is unique so some people could depend on routine, get agitated by sensory stimulation or they need clear, unambiguous instructions, according to the U.K.’s NHS.

Misconception: Parenting, environmental factors trigger autism

Autism was first described by scientists in the 1940s. Years later, critics pointed a finger at cold parenting – “refrigerator mothers” who were distant and didn’t engage with their kids – as the culprit.

While researchers still don’t know what causes autism, they’re certain parenting isn’t a factor. They’re zeroing in on genes instead.

Studies have suggested that parents who have a first child with autism have higher chances of having a second child with autism compared to the general population.

Canadian scientists who studied siblings with autism and their parents found that even siblings can have different ‘forms’ of autism.

In this case, the siblings and their parents’ genetic code were examined. Mutations present like typos in the human DNA code. While siblings shared autism spectrum disorder and the same parents, the typos in their DNA that led to the neurodevelopmental condition weren’t the same.

The researchers learned that in 70 per cent of the cases, different genes were involved in the siblings’ autism. With this information in hand, doctors are hopeful that patients will receive individualized treatment.

In Canadian research out last year, scientists suggested the scarcity of a single protein in the brain could be what’s to blame for up to a third of autism cases. The brain protein in question is called nSR100 – also known as SRRM4 – and it’s pivotal for normal brain development.

Misconception: Autism is a mental health disorder

Autism is a neurological disorder marked by abnormalities in the brain.

While people believe that those with autism lack empathy and can’t develop meaningful relationships, they can feel as much, if not more, than their peers, PBS notes.

Children with autism may find it difficult or aren’t sought out by others. They could have difficulty relating and building connections with their peers, Autism Canada says.

Misconception: Vaccines cause autism

It’s been a tumultuous few years for parents and pediatricians: measles, mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox have all resurfaced in North America after they were virtually wiped out with the help of vaccines.

Infectious disease experts suggest a steadily growing anti-vaccination movement is what’s causing this resurgence.

In 1998, a study raised concerns about a possible link between the MMR – measles, mumps, rubella – vaccine and autism, setting off widespread panic around the world. The study had its flaws: it was based on only 12 children, and the researchers didn’t find a link between the MMR vaccine and behavioural problems. Ten of the 13 authors of the paper said they shouldn’t have published the paper.

Ultimately, the journal that published the paper issued a formal retraction. It said that its decision to publish the article was the result of a “collective failure.” Subsequent large studies around the world haven’t found a link between the MMR vaccine — or any other vaccine — and autism.

“There is no scientific evidence to support the theory of a link. Because signs of autism may appear around the same age that children receive the MMR vaccine, some parents believe the vaccine causes the condition,” the Canadian Paediatric Society says on its website.

But celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone, continued to voice their concerns about vaccines and their unsubstantiated link to autism.

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