Autism is everywhere: is it a burden or a blessing
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – The first few years of parenthood can be hectic and stressful for parents with newborn children. Adding a disability may initially complicate the household, but through education and awareness, developmental disorders such as autism do not have to affect a family’s way of life.
Recorded through the 1960-80’s the frequency of children with autism was around one in 5,000, but in an unknown way the number rose to one out of every 88 children born. With such a drastic rise in the occurrence of autism, diagnosing and treating autism is a top priority for many pediatricians.
For parents who are unsure if their child has autism, there are a few warning signs to look out for, stated Navy Capt. Joseph McBreen, the Educational and Developmental Intervention Service medical consultant at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.
McBreen recently received recognition for his help in writing, ‘Life Journey through Autism: A guide for Military Families,’ a book to help military families diagnose and learn about all the resources available to them if their child has autism.
“A family should be suspicious if a child has a speech language delay, not saying mama or dada by 12 months of age,” said Mcbreen. “Other key factors include no babble by 12 months, no pretend play by 18 months of age and also gaze monitoring, watching what the parent is looking at. All of the children lacking the key factors are at a high risk for having autism.”
Autism is now ranked as the most common neurobehavioral among children and is often called an epidemic, added McBreen.
“Autism is a lifelong disorder, there is no cure for it,” said McBreen. “Often time doctors try to scam families by claiming a cure if money is sent, but families should be cautious because it’s fake.”
As a course of treatment for children with autism, parents have many options available to them nationwide.
McBreen added, individuals should call the Early Intervention Service because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act allows parents, concerned with their child’s development, to get their child evaluated for autism.
“The local authority has to do the test free of charge,” said McBreen. “The test has to include two people from different specialties, usually speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy.”
After the test is conducted, a written report with age equivalent scores is due to the family in accordance with educational law.
If stationed aboard base, the base is responsible for conducting the evaluation, stated McBreen. It’s done at the medical annex inside Berkley Manor housing area. He also said if living off base, the Children’s Developmental Services Agency conducts the test.
Families covered under Tricare are able to use Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy through tutors or supervisors. Tutors receive less training but provide more time with the child. ABA therapy is the most researched and effective therapy for children with autism, said McBreen.
Any developmental disorder can be taxing on a family, but through diagnosing, treatment and all the resources available to service members, autism does not have to be a burden for anyone.