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 Speaks (an excellent resource)