A: Autism is a national crisis. It is the fastest growing disability in the United States. A child is diagnosed with autism every 20 minutes and it now affects more than one in 100 children according to a recent study reported by the CDC and published in Pediatrics. More than a disorder, autism is a national crisis affecting more than 1.5 million Americans and costing the country more than $90 billion annually. As the rate of autism accelerates, so do our efforts.
Individuals affected by autism do not always experience the same symptoms. The symptoms depend on the severity of the disorder. The impact or manifestation of these behaviors can range from mild to disabling. Early signs of autism are:
Loss or lack of speech around 18 months of age.
Little or no eye contact.
Loss or lack of gestures, such as pointing or waving.
Repetitive speech or actions.
Unusual reactions to the way things look, feel, smell, taste or sound.
A: A qualified professional, such as a developmental pediatrician or pediatric neurologist, makes an autism diagnosis.
A professional may use a screening questionnaire to gather observations from the child’s parents. If the screening indicates the possibility of autism, a more comprehensive evaluation is often conducted by a medical team that includes a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist and other specialists.