Boy playing with the interactive board
Allied News April 8, 2013

National Autism Awareness Month

Posted by <Ryan>

Over 1 billion dollars has been spent researching Autism over the past decade, and yet in many ways it still remains a mystery.  Autism can take many forms and has varying degrees of affliction.  It’s primary symptoms center around deficient communication skills and intellectual disabilities.  It is estimated that 1 in 88 children have some form of autism ranging from the severe, such as Kanner’s Syndrome, to milder forms such as Aspergers.

There still remains a number of diagnosis controversies and debates centered  around autism due to its reliance on behavioral evaluations rather than a specific medical test.  In addition, there has been an an ongoing debate on whether autism is caused by development factors or genetics.  You may have even heard of the recent controversy with Jenny McCarthy over vaccines and their culpability-although their has been no proven link.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and the fact that SLP’s are an integral part in therapy treatment for autism, make it an apt topic for our blog.  Since many autistic children can have trouble communicating and making friends, SLP’s bring a valuable perspective and skill-set in developing language, verbal cues, and social interaction abilities. Recently, a study was released from Columbia University, published in the Journal of Pediatrics that shows that extensive therapy can show “rapid gains” in about 10% of cases. You can read about it here .

The study found that consistent language and developmental therapy, combined with anti-depressant medications led to measured improvement among many children.  A troubling aspect of the 10% group showing rapid gains was how high the percentage of these children were wealthy and white.  Poor and minority children do not fare as well but also suffer from equal access to good developmental therapy.  Unfortunately, many states still do not have regulated insurance plans for autism, as well as a mandate for equal access.

In my own backyard of Charleston, SC at MUSC medical center, autism was recently in the news.  MUSC was awarded a 1 million dollar grant to study autism rates among the local population.  It is the first study of its kind done in SC.  Autism research has made great strides in the last 10 years but there is still so much to learn.  We encourage you to get involved.  A good place to start is: http://www.autism-society.org

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