A couple of days ago, while sitting at my desk, I heard the voice of a young child. As the voice got closer, I noticed that he was only saying one word, Mama. When he finally reached my desk, I noticed a handsome 3 or 4 year old, possessing the most incredible smile, looking at me and calling me, Mama. After a few minutes, I asked the coworker who was with him, if he could say anything else. She shook her head and said no, because he is, as I thought, autistic.
When parents hear the word autism, it seems to produce un-describable anxiety, even if their child isn’t autistic. Parents typically explain this anxiety as fear of the unknown, which is pretty understandable, since it’s estimated that one in 150 children is autistic. And, according to the Autism Society of America, autism is now considered the fastest growing disability in the country, affecting between 1 to 1.5 million Americans.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder affecting the normal functioning of the brain, which typically impacts development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. However, it’s important to note that autism is known as a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects each person differently and at varying degrees.
Children with autism, have unique strengths and weaknesses. Some have average to above average intelligence, and others may be below average. Some students require special education instruction, while others don’t. When children with autism become school age, it’s important for parents and school staff to work together. Among other things, parents should inform teachers of the child’s behavior and communication skills at home, and teachers should let parents know the strategies that they’re using at school.
There are many resources and lots of information available to parents of children with autism. Most of these resources can be obtained from your child’s school or doctor. Educational services are also available for children with autism. However, the services may vary from one school district to another. The best way to locate these services is by contacting your neighborhood school or the special education department of your school district.