TMH Living Well: April is Autism Awareness Month | CraigDailyPress.com

TMH Living Well: April is Autism Awareness Month

Autism fairly common, especially among boys

The Memorial Hospital

MSPT

Before passing quick judgment on a parent as their child throws a temper tantrum in a grocery store, consider that it might be autism. Autism is becoming a more common diagnosis, given to 1 in 68 children in the United States, according to Autism Speaks.

"Kids with autism are prone to social anxiety which gets worse in large settings like church, stores and airports. Their response may be a temper tantrum or melt down. Autism is like any special need and parents need support and offers of help rather than criticisms," said Dr. Kristie Yarmer, pediatrician with The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic.

In recent years, the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically. The main reason is likely a change in how autism is defined. Now, autism is grouped with other disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome, disintegrative disorder and pervasive development disorder. The grouping is now called ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"During my training a decade ago, 1 in 150 were diagnosed. Now it's 1 in 68, and five times more likely in boys. I have quite a few patients who have been diagnosed with autism," Yarmer said.

Dr. Yarmer has always enjoyed working with kids with autism. Recently, her son, Ben, 9, was diagnosed with high functioning autism. She is very involved in growing resources and increasing awareness in the community about autism.

"If severe, kids are often identified before they start school, from as early as 18 months. Those that are high functioning tend to be diagnosed after they start school, when learning or behavioral problems present themselves. Even then, it is often diagnosed as ADHD or anxiety since behaviors overlap between these three diagnoses," she said.

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Just because a child has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or anxiety it doesn't mean they have autism, and visa versa. Kids with autism tend to have speech delays, gross or fine motor delays, and are more prone to certain medical conditions, such as gastro-intestinal upset and seizures. They also tend to have trouble socializing, may be aggressive, or may be withdrawn. They may also resist cuddling, not make eye contact, appear emotionless, be resistant to change and perform repetitive movements such as rocking or spinning.

"I can't emphasize enough that is you are concerned about your child, ask your doctor for an evaluation, and get more opinions as needed. My son received three evaluations before we learned his full diagnosis," Yarmer said.

The sooner autism is diagnosed, the better. Once diagnosed, seek support for both your child and yourself. A local support group for parents is currently meeting.

"Sharing resources with other parents is crucial. It's nice to know you are not the only parent that had to leave a party because your child was acting out," said Yarmer, adding that just because a child is diagnosed with autism, it doesn't mean he or she can't be successful.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

Resources for kids with autism

Below are area resources for families challenged by autism. Please note this is not a complete list.

Autism Parent/Caregiver Support Group

Third Sunday of each month, 4 to 6 pm

The Journey at First Baptist, 1150 W. Ninth St.

Walk-ins welcome

For more information, call Connections 4 Kids at 970-824-1081 or visit http://www.connections4kids.org.

Freedom Hooves

Equine assisted therapy for kids and adults

For more information visit http://www.freedomhooves.org or call Joan at 970-701-9085.

Yampa Valley Autism Program

Information on autism, events and summer programming for area kids

For more information visit http://www.yampavalleyautism.org or call 970-870-4263.

Autism Speaks

Offers broad information on autism, along with solid research

For more information, visit autismspeaks.org.

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