April is Autism Awareness Month, and in 2021 the CDC reported 1 in 44 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Heidi Draft-Peppin, a social work care manager from Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, as well as a mom of two boys who have autism, joins the Fox 17 Morning Mix to explain what autism is, and why it's important to know the signs.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people; autism surrounds social communication differences, not intellectual.
The first signs of autism include:
- Delays in language
- Lack of eye contact
- Flap their hands when excited
- Prefer to play alone
- Won't respond to their name
- May not want to play with toys at all
- Looking through you vs looking at you
Once they are in school, they may struggle with understanding social situations, like taking turns in a conversation, recognizing facial expressions and body language, and understanding jokes and sarcasm. They may struggle with making friends.
For kids under 3, parents can request a referral to Early On, a free program through the state of Michigan that provides various therapies and support in the home.
Or parents can make an appointment with their pediatrician about their concerns; a pediatrician may refer you for an evaluation and can help guide parents to programs and resources to better understand autism.
There is no cure for autism, but it is helpful to read up and learn as much as you can about autism to help better understand your child's behavior.
Various therapies like speech, language, or occupational can help with symptoms including sensory issues.
The most important thing parents can do for their child with autism learns about autism and be their child’s ally and advocate.
For more information, visit the Autism Alliance of Michigan: website.
Medical Moment is sponsored by Spectrum Health.