April marks the 50th anniversary of the Autism Awareness campaign launched by the Autism Society. The five facets of this month-long effort are: awareness, action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation. While promoting awareness is always one of the goals, the overarching objective is to move towards acceptance and appreciation. Tens of thousands of people get an autism diagnosis each year, it’s time we support everyone living with autism so that they can have the best life possible.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed early on in a child’s development – usually between the ages of 2 months to 5 years. Signs of ASD include avoiding eye contact, difficulty holding a conversation, delay in spoken language, repetitive language or mannerisms, and persistent fixation on parts of objects. Each child can demonstrate different behavioral signs to varying degrees but it’s important to look out for any missing development milestones. Even though autism isn’t “curable”, there are many interventions that can help with a better outcome. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to intervene.

The cause of ASD isn’t known but scientists, researchers, and doctors know that it is not caused by vaccines, poor parenting, or solely by environmental factors. Even though the rate of ASD has almost doubled from 2004 to now, no one knows the exact cause. What we DO know though, is that it’s never better to “wait and see” if a child does better. It is ALWAYS better to get diagnosed and treated earlier. When in doubt, get a diagnostic assessment or referral from your pediatrician.

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