Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Autism Disaster

Today, April 2, 2008, is World Autism Awareness Day. If there ever was a disease or affliction that needed a World Awareness Day, it is Autism.

Today autism will affect one out of every 150 children born in the United States. World wide rates are unknown, but clearly the incidence of autism is rising.

Autism is a developmental neurological disorder that appears, often suddenly, in children between the ages of two and three. Parents often speak of their "children being stolen from them, right before their eyes." And, indeed, it often seems that way.

Children who were highly verbal and socially interactive withdraw and lose their language skills. Autistic children often stop interacting with parents and playmates. They no longer look anyone in the eyes, instead turning away or even shrieking or crying when approached or hugged.

Unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests are common symptoms of autism. So are outbursts and fits of anger. Boys are affected four times more often than girls.

But what is most frightening about autism is what is not known about the disease. We do not know the cause. If fact there are more questions and debates than answers.

And parts of the medical community actually fight research into potential causes like childhood vaccinations, rather than support further investigations.

And we do not have any specific treatments or drugs to treat autism. In fact so little is actually known that parents are often left to attempt treatments and remedies on their own. Special diets seem to have helped some children. Physical therapy, including some unusual patterning therapies, have helped others.

But there isn't a single answer or therapy. And virtually none of the treatments or therapies have been researched or scientifically studied.

So here we have an epidemic that is poorly understood, its causes unknown and treatments unverified. And research is random, poorly coordinated, and underfunded.

I certainly urge you to get involved and I know many of you, like me and my family, have been personally touched by autism. I have a list of autism links at the end of this article.

The Autism Society of America is urging everyone to support and elect candidates who will support autism research and help break the log jams in the medical community. This is excellent advice.

Here are some links for those who want more information or wish to donate to support autism support and research:

Autism Society of America

Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children

Autism Speaks (an excellent resource)

Autism Research Institute

Autism Fact Sheet: National Institute for Neurological Disorders


Utah Savage said...

What a thoughtful, kind, compassionate, empathetic man. I wish I knew you better. I always know I'll find some sanity and intelligence here. I am bipolar. I think this is another of those under-diagnosed illnesses. Also in my childhood I was sexually abused daily and for almost all of my childhood. This too is one of our dirty little secrets that no one wants to talk about. Dirty laundry needs to be hung in the bright strong light of day. We need to talk honestly about what ails us, openly and without shame or fear. Only by facing these realities can we recover.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

utah, Thank you for becoming a regular reader/commentator here. And thank you for the nice complements.

You lived a horror that happens so much more often than anyone realizes. Even worse than just being under-reported, sexual abuse is often ignored or even denied by friends, family and the authorities (if they ever even get involved). I apprecaite your courage and believe you are an inspiration to others.

The cruelity some people inflict on others is beyond my comprehension. I find more and more each day I agree with that great sage Linus van Pelt in Peanuts: "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand."