The Autism Center of Southeastern Ohio (ACSO), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was started in 2007 to assist families in Washington county and Southeastern Ohio living with Autism. Since that time, we have grown to start our support group, Washington County Autism Support Hour (WASH) and our quarterly respite program. Additionally, we offer iPad minigrant opportunities to the local community. As we continue to grow within our community, we continue to raise Autism Awareness. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, by providing support, resources, and opportunities within the Southeastern Ohio community. ACSO is a board completely made up of volunteers. Any donation fully goes to support our programs to help families living with Autism in Washington County and Southeastern Ohio.
Autism Center of Southeastern Ohio FAQ
What is Autism?
Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder (sometimes referred to as “classic autism”), Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Autism has its roots in early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 12 and 18 months of age. Some infants and toddlers begin develop normally until the second year of life, when they lose skills and develop autism – a pattern called “regression.”
How Common is Autism?
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence over the last 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. ASD is estimated to affect more than 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Moreover, government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. There is no established explanation for this continuing increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered.
What Causes Autism?
Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been “we have no idea.” Research is now delivering the answers. First and foremost, we now know that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. Research has identified more than a hundred autism risk genes. In around 15 percent of cases, a specific genetic cause of a person’s autism can be identified. However, most cases involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development. In other words, in the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of nongenetic, or environmental, influence further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these environmental risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal illness during pregnancy, extreme prematurity and very low birth weight and certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain. Mothers exposed to high levels of pesticides and air pollution may also be at higher risk of having a child with ASD. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk. A small but growing body of research suggests that autism risk is less among children whose mothers took prenatal vitamins (containing folic acid) in the months before and after conception.
Are Vaccines to Blame?
Many studies have been conducted to determine if a link exists between immunization and increased prevalence of autism, with particular attention to the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal. These studies have found no link between vaccines and autism. We strongly encourage parents to have their children vaccinated, because this will protect them against serious diseases. It remains possible that, in rare cases, immunization might trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic condition. We recognize that some parents may still have concerns about vaccines, especially those parents who already have a child or relative with an autism spectrum disorder. Because parents and guardians differ in their sensitivity and concern about this issue, we urge them to find a pediatrician or other health practitioner who will partner with them to consider their concerns and help them ensure the optimal well-being of their child. Establishing open communication and trust with a physician who understands each child and his or her family is the best strategy for keeping a child healthy.
How Can I Tell if My Child has Autism?
Though autism cannot be definitively diagnosed until around 18 to 24 months, research shows that children as young as 8 to 12 months may exhibit early signs. Parents should look for symptoms such as no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by 9 months; no babbling or back-and-forth gestures (e.g. pointing) by 12 months; or any loss of babbling, speech or social skills at any age. If you suspect that your child may have one or more of these symptoms, don't wait. Talk to your doctor or contact your state’s Early Intervention Services department about getting your child screened for autism.