A recent study estimates that 1 in 50 school children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This number comes on the heels of years of increased autism awareness efforts.
With so many statistics and information describing an increase in autism spectrum disorders, many parents are left wondering what these new numbers mean for them. Dr. Rosemary Casey, pediatrician at Lankenau Medical Center, explains what parents need to know.
Do you think this new information is cause for concern for parents or expectant parents?
The frequency of autism spectrum disorders has been increasing for decades but researchers can not agree on whether this trend is an increased awareness of the disorders, an expanded definition of the disorders, or a true increase in prevalence. However, autistic spectrum disorders remain an important public health concern.
What symptoms should parents look for in their children to determine whether or not they are autistic?
Children with autism have disabilities with social interaction, communication, and repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior. The CDC has a web site (www.firstsigns.org) which helps parents identify the red flags or signs that suggest a child might have autism. If your child exhibits these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician about it—don’t ignore them.
In recent years, immunizations have gotten some criticism and been said to cause autism in children. From a medical standpoint, is this credible?
There is a strong genetic component to autism. Environmental factors may play a role but it is clear that immunizations do not cause autism. Reports from the Institute of Medicine and many studies published in referred journals have proven that vaccines do not cause autism.
Are there any steps you can take before you become pregnant to learn if your child will be predisposed to autism?
Expectant mothers should seek prenatal care as soon as they know they are pregnant and follow the advice of their health care provider. Regarding the cause of autism, studies of perinatal and neonatal risk factors for autism have not identified any single factor, but a doctor can help you explore your family history and monitor a child’s development once they are born.
If you suspect your child may be displaying signs of autism, schedule an evaluation with a physician or therapist. Riddle Hospital currently offers pediatric evaluations for children. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 484.227.3370 or visit our website.