Autism Today

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Information regarding the disorder of Autism is certainly prevalent in our world today. The “Autism Speaks” organization advertises on television that one in one hundred fifty children are afflicted with the disorder. If correct, these are alarming statistics. It is well documented that all socioeconomic groups and boys more than girls are impacted. The diagnostic process often begins when toddlers do not meet speech and other developmental milestones. The current impact to our schools and other systems as attempts to assimilate the children into society are overwhelming at best. The long-term impact to society and public health resources related to the special needs of this group are yet to be fully realized. The impact on a family is more than those of us not experiencing it can understand. I know well a family in which two out of three children are diagnosed as Autistic. One child is profoundly challenged while the other is able to attend schools, but is clearly socially challenged. The family dynamics were not uncommon. The father enmeshed himself in work. The mother blamed herself for being unable to manage her children. It was a very unhappy home. Health care visits did not readily detect the issues for some time, which allowed denial, frustration and blame to continue. It was interesting to observe the relief when finally having a diagnosis and access to the treatment that would ultimately begin to improve the situation. The state of Arizona recently passed legislation requiring insurance companies to fund advanced therapy for Autistic children. Proponents of the bill contended that the early intervention costs would be offset by costs later in life once the children are able to contribute to society. Those arguing against the bill stated that costs will be passed on to all and that it is unlikely that profoundly Autistic children will ever be emancipated from the health care system. Also of note is the fact that our textbook, Health Promotion Throughout the Lifespan, 6th Edition, by Edelman and Mandle does not directly address Autism, probably because it was last updated in 2006. Certainly upcoming editions will address the disorder along with the role of the nurse in working with the child and family members. This is a good example of how the Internet and other sources can provide real time information.

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