It is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by challenges in receptive and expressive communication, social interaction with others, and patterns of behavior and interests that are restricted and repetitive in nature.
The symptoms of autism are typically recognized between 12-24 months of age, but in severe cases, they may be identified prior to 12 months. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder due to the very wide range of overt symptoms, ranging from mild (Level 1 – Requiring Support) to moderate (Level 2 – Substantial Support) and severe (Level 3 - Requiring Very Support). The level of severity determines the likelihood of independent functioning throughout the lifespan.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the prevalence rate o autism has been steadily increasing over the decades. Their data from surveillance year 2000 to 2022, showed a dramatically increasing trend from 1:150 children in 2000, to 1:36 in 2022. While the pattern of growth is consistent across all ethnic groups, in the last decade, there has been an increase in the prevalence rate amongst non-White groups as well.
A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history:
Specify current severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table below).
B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history:
C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for the general developmental level.
|Restricted, Repetitive Behaviors
|3 - Very substantial support
|Severe challenges in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; behavior challenges (absence of communication)
|Great distress/difficulty changing focus or action
|2 - Substantial support
|Marked challenges in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; social difficulties apparent even with supports
|Distress and/or difficulty changing focus or action
|1 – Requiring support
|Without needed support, difficulties in social communication are very noticeable
Difficulty with organization and planning affects independence
Awareness of the early symptoms, diagnostic tools, and intervention or treatment options is critical for early intervention and remediation.
The United Nations declared April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day, but the programs to raise awareness can be conducted throughout the month and year. The 2023 theme for World Autism Awareness is “Transforming the Narrative: Contributions at Home, at Work, in the Arts, and in Policymaking.” The purpose of this theme was to encourage families of individuals with autism to focus on accepting, supporting, and advocating, rather than expending energy to search for a cure.
Many families in our own neighborhood and community have children or family members with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. We can all support each other by offering information that they might find valuable. Keeping this theme in mind, the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen) organized an Autism Awareness Day for the first time on its premises, with the goal of supporting our community members who have children or youth on the autism spectrum. It was held on April 29, 2023, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM. The Temple’s theme was Transforming the Narrative: Support and Advocacy. The purpose of this theme was to enable families to find and utilize sources of support for education, training, advocacy, and related activities.
The Radha Krishna Temple took the first step toward this goal to: (1) understand the needs of the local community, and (2) plan multiple events throughout the year to lend support in ways that may be beneficial for the Temple community. With this in mind, it organized a Panel Discussion with experts to provide an opportunity for parents to become aware of the options for education, care, and remediation.
Participants had the opportunity to connect with the presenters and engage in a Q&A session during and after the presentations. The presenters appreciate the challenges that parents of children with autism experience and are willing to provide support services in the form of a support group at the Temple.
Children engaged in play activities with volunteers during that time, allowing parents to focus on the day’s program. Adults and youth who are current devotees at the Radha Krishna Temple served as volunteers in the sentiment of service. Parents can use the Discussion board on this blog page to communicate their interest in future programs.
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