Autumn leaves, the lower Hudson Valley, and a community coming together to change lives.
That’s Wall Street Rides FAR (For Autism Research), a glorious cycling event to benefit the Autism Science Foundation. Held in Westchester County in the fall, this annual event is organized by autism advocates Bryan Harkins and Melissa Moo Harkins.
During Ride FAR, hundreds of riders—a mix of avid cyclists and weekend recreational riders—will venture from Saxon Woods County Park on a fully-supported journey of the scenic roads north of New York City.
Traders Magazine supports the Harkins and Autism research. Donate here
Every child is different and every child develops at his or her own pace. However, there are specific developmental milestones that all children should be reaching by specific ages. If your child is not meeting milestones or you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait! Talk to your doctor.
Signs for Infants and Children
Early signs of autism can often be detected in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.
Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention (sharing an experience of observing an object or event by gazing or pointing), or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways, like lining them up or focusing on parts of toys rather than the whole. Parents who notice these signs, or are concerned their children are not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatricians and request a developmental screening. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening of all infants for autism as part of 18-month and 24-month well-baby examinations.
Early diagnosis and early intervention are critical. Studies show that about half of children with autism who are in an evidence-based early intervention program from age 3-5 can gain enough skills to be mainstreamed for kindergarten. There are now evidence based interventions for babies as young as 12 months old, and studies are underway to design treatments for 9 month old babies at risk for autism.
Signs for Adolescents and Adults
Although autism is commonly diagnosed in children, it is possible that an ASD does not go diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood. In this population, autism manifests itself as difficulties in socialization, atypical communication, and restricted mental flexibility. Just like for children, certain red flags can suggest that an adult may have autism. These signs can appear at any stage of adulthood, be it age 19 or age 60. Just as getting a diagnosis at a young age opens the door to therapies and medications that can prove effective, an adult diagnosis can help improve the quality of life of higher-functioning autistic adults.
It can be difficult to propose that someone has autism, especially when they have lived most of their lives without a diagnosis. In most cases, diagnoses are meant to serve as explanations for particular behaviors that may have been overlooked or attributed to other difficulties earlier in life. The Asperger’s Association of New England suggests that, when telling a person that he or she may have autism, it is best to lead with positive behavioral traits then follow with traits that could be attributed to autism. They explain that a person may respond with denial, relief, or anger, but, in most cases, recognizing the characteristics of autism can provide affected individuals with a new level of self-awareness. If you suspect that you or someone you know has autism, look out for these traits and contact your doctor for more information:
- Anxiety in social situations
- Trouble empathizing
- Difficulty understanding body language, gestures, facial expressions, social innuendos
- Trouble forming and maintaining relationships
- Difficulty making conversation (particularly chatting, making small talk)
- Trouble understanding or practicing socially appropriate behaviors
- Trouble understanding double meanings
- Anxiety in group settings
- Tendency to interpret information too literally
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Restricted or unique interests (such as obsessions with dictionaries or encyclopedia facts)
- Obsession with rigid routines and sameness
- Trouble making plans for the future
Sometimes, a person will establish a self-diagnosis of autism based on independent research and self-observations. However, a medical diagnosis is required to be eligible for government support resources for adults with disabilities. Additionally, an official diagnosis can lead to insights about behavioral strengths and weaknesses, which can help individuals plan for the future. To acquire an official diagnosis, ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.