Autism:: The Other Pandemic

Autism:: The Other Pandemic

Every April, the world changes to light things up blue for Autism Awareness Month. This year, as the world battles COVID 19, Autism Awareness Month has taken a bit of a backseat and understandably so. I’m not trying to take anything away from the seriousness of the health crisis that we are living currently; however, the reality is that the rise of Autism cases around the world is also a pandemic that has been steadily increasing for the past several years. It is a silent crisis that many of us in the Autism world have been watching unfold, and there is still not enough real answers explaining why. Are we better at identifying it? Is it environmental factors? Genetics? All of the above? I’m not sure but the numbers continue to grow with boys being diagnosed at a much higher rate than girls.

The Early Years

My son was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years old. It was the one of the hardest moments of my life, but I am forever grateful for the early intervention he was able to receive because he was diagnosed so young. If you are concerned about your child’s development, this milestone tracker from the CDC is a great place to start.  Also, contact your school district’s Early Childhood Intervention program. If your child qualifies, he/she could receive services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and others. If you have a concern over your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician. And always follow your mom gut. If needed, a developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist can properly give an autism diagnosis after a thorough evaluation. Currently, the CDC estimates that 1 in 54 children are on the autism spectrum. It is better to err on the side of caution and have any concerns checked out and not miss that early window of intervention.

There are many interventions that can help a child with autism thrive and research shows that the earlier therapies are started, the better the outcome. Some therapies that have helped us throughout the years are:

ABA therapy

Speech therapy

Occupational therapy

Play/Social Skills therapy

Early Intervention/Preschool program from our school district

This is not an inclusive list; however, in speaking with your clinician, you can determine what would be the best course of action for your child.

Reaching Adulthood While Living with Autism

Now I have to bring awareness to something that many parents, including myself, don’t like to think about. Autism and Adulthood. Eventually, our young kids to turn into adults and the supports that are put in place by the school districts eventually fade as our children “age out”. As our kids grow, the therapies and supports may ebb and flow. For example, in our case, we have replaced occupational therapy with swimming. We also now focus more on social skills therapy whereas when we were in the early stages of our journey, speech therapy was our main go to. Things change. Our kids change. Their needs change. This is a reality now for many families as a large number of kids with autism are becoming adults with autism. There is a lack of resources for these adults such day programs, residential housing, and jobs. This is where the real Autism Awareness needs to shift to because I feel we have a pretty good grasp on what we need to do in the early years, but then what?

Fortunately, here in Houston we have several wonderful organizations providing support to families with older children on the Autism spectrum. Autism Rescue Angels provides financial assistance to families in the Houston area for therapeutic and respite needs. They focus on families with children ages 15 and over. Another organization is The Hub Houston. They are an educational program for teens and young adults with neurological differences. Lastly, Aspire Accessories is a nonprofit organization that makes jewelry and other accessories. The artisans are all young adults with autism that put together beautiful accessories while earning a wage.

The Autism journey spans well beyond the month of April and wearing the color blue. It is a lifelong journey with many unexpected turns and twists. Surround yourself with a strong network of other autism families that also understand this journey. They are wealth of knowledge and resources. Those are the people that understand the huge significance of your child finally getting a haircut without a meltdown or your child being able to walk down the street without bolting away. I can’t stress enough the importance of finding time {I know it’s hard!}, but finding some time for self care in order to recharge your caregiving batteries. And grace. Give yourself grace. Give your child grace.

Some days are better than the others. For those on the outside of autism watching a loved one or a friend struggling through it, ask them how you can help. Learn about autism and about the person that is living with it. Include them in everyday things. That might mean getting uncomfortable or modifying plans. But for the family that now gets to participate in an outing because of it, it is life giving.

Because every person living with an autism diagnosis is so much more than the month of April. 

Autism:: The Other Pandemic

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Maria G
Maria is a Cuban born, Miami raised, officially made-it-to-Texas mom of 3 who has called the Katy area home for the past 11 years. Growing up in Miami has played a central role in Maria's cultural identity and how she is raising her kiddos. While attending Florida International University {Go Panthers!}, she met a cute boy named Alex. He had the most amazing smile and a head full of hair and since getting married and adding Daniel {November 2007}, Nicolas {January 2010} and Matteo {June 2011} to the family, he now has no hair but still an amazing smile! Maria was lucky enough to travel to far away places during her time working for a large international firm but switched gears after having kids to focus on another passion – helping people through fitness. She believes we are always a work in progress and we shouldn’t be afraid to reinvent ourselves! When she’s not chasing her three boys, Maria enjoys date nights, distance running, binge watching HGTV and enjoying a little vino with her friends!


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