April is dedicated as Autism Awareness Month. So what exactly is autism, and what is the difference between autism and autism spectrum disorder? Previously, autism had distinct sub-types such as autistic disorder, Asperger, childhood disintegrative behavior, etc. Recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5thEdition (DSM-5) has put all autism disorders into the umbrella term of autism spectrum disorder or ASD. According to Autismspeaks.org, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term for complex disorders of brain development that vary in degree of severity. ASD can cause difficulties with social interaction, communication, repetitive behaviors, motor coordination, and intellectual disabilities. Autism typically emerges between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in America 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum.
How can therapy help my child with autism? Children with ASD can benefit greatly from physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Physical therapy works on strengthening the muscles in the body and can help with motor planning and coordination with difficult taks. Occupational therapy can work on a variety of skills such as activities of daily living, sensory integration, fine motor tasks, and social interaction. Speech therapy can help you and your child communicate more effectively with one another. These are just some of the basic skills that physical, occupational, and speech therapy can work on to help your child with ASD.
For more information and resources on autism you can go to Autism Speaks . Also during the whole month of April, Wiley is opening up their Autism Awareness Research collection to the public for free! This link will provide you with over 100 different research articles pertaining to autism.
There are also a few local resources in the area. Lowcountry Autism Foundation is located on Hilton Head Island and helps to provide resources to families and individuals with ASD. There is also Palmetto Autism Connections which is located in Bluffton and helps to connect children with autism and their families with information, support, therapeutic tools, and community involvement.
Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT
Pediatric Physical Therapist