Autism Today, comment

Autism has become one of the biggest issues facing our schools and our insurance companies today. Many people do not understand that there can be differing degrees of autism. Some children diagnosed with autism are considered to be high functioning and will join society as they age if they are given proper diagnosis and therapy throughout. Others with the diagnosis of autism will not function on their own regardless of assistance from schools and doctors. While I was a school nurse, I cared for a family of six children where five of them had differing degrees of autism diagnosis. Two of the children were incapable of performing any care for themselves at the ages of ten and twelve as they were developmentally approximately 18 months. This was a terrible hardship on the family. The children were sent to school as respite for the parents but were incapable of learning and took time away from the other special needs children in their classrooms. Three of the children functioned at the developmental age of four year olds and had some ability to perform their ADL’s and to participate in the classroom. The last child had no autism diagnosis and functioned at the appropriate developmental age. I cannot imagine the difficulties that this family faces on a daily basis.

Original Post
March 10, 2010
Title: Autism Today
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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