As a speech-language pathologist I'm always asked questions about what some parents have referred to as the "a" word. I've worked with many toddlers and older children who have been diagnosed with autism over the years. They have been some of the most rewarding, yet challenging clients, too.
So, what is autism? According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (www.asha.org): Autism is a developmental disability that causes problems with social skills and communication. Autism can be mild or severe. It is different for every person. Autism is also known as autism spectrum disorders. It now affects 1 in 88 children, and boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism.
You can learn more about Autism, its signs and symptoms, causes, and what speech-language pathologists can do to help on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association website.
One of my most memorable cases I saw for speech therapy was a little boy that I"ll call J. He was referred to me by the early intervention program at 18 months because he was not talking (according to his mother). He later received an autism diagnosis which really helped me be able figure out what to do to help him communicate. As a result of early intervention speech therapy and special instruction, J was more social with his peers in his preschool class, he was talking in simple words and phrases to express his wants and needs, and was learning to play appropriately with toys. Of course J needed to continue with speech therapy once he left the early intervention program, so he was able to receive services through the public school's program at that time. A few months later, I started working with J's younger brother. When his mother found out I would be the younger brother's speech therapist I can still remember what she said to me. She said, "I'm so glad you will be working with my other son. You gave J. a gift that I would never be able to give him. You gave him the gift of communication." Wow! No one had ever complemented me this way. It was the most touching thing I've ever heard from a parent. This is the reason why I am a speech-language pathologist - I can make a big difference in the lives of others.
To learn more about National Autism Awareness Month please visit the Autism Society's website, http://www.autism-society.org/about-us/national-autism-awareness-month/.