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Our Opinion: Be aware, open-minded about autism

Our Opinion: Be aware, open-minded about autism

April 28th, 2011 in News

Autism spectrum disorders, as its name implies, is multi-faceted.

The developmental disability manifests itself in a variety of behaviors that require a variety of therapies.

During this month's observance of Autism Awareness Month, therapists, parents and patients are working to promote greater community understanding.

"Autism has many faces," said mother Ginger Luetkemeyer, a parent of an autistic child. "There is not one treatment that will work across the board ... Each child, even in the same family, is unique."

Autism spectrum disorders largely have eluded scientific understanding, thus far. Research pinpointing causes and treatments is ongoing.

What we do know is:

• The spectrum of disorders has been linked to at least 14 behaviors, including: impaired social skills, including avoiding verbal communication, interaction and eye contact; insistence on sameness and routine; and insensitivity to pain.

• Autism is considered the fastest growing developmental disability. One autistic student was enrolled at the local Special Learning Center when it opened 26 years ago; now, 38 percent of its students have been diagnosed with the disorder.

• In addition to speech, occupational and physical therapies, individual behavior therapies specific to each child's disorder have shown promise. Those individual therapies, however, are time-intensive and expensive.

More and more people in our community are being touched by someone - a family member, friend or neighbor - who has a connection to the autism spectrum of disorders.

We encourage everyone to remain open-minded and willing to learn about this perplexing disease.