Resources increase autism support

| April 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

Capt. Todd Heer
Nutrition Care Division, Tripler Army Medical Center



HONOLULU — April is Autism Awareness month, a time for the public to gain knowledge about autism and the autism community.

Autism spectrum disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments; communication difficulties; and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Signs and symptoms begin to show up early in a child’s life, from 1 to 3 years of age, but according to a 2006 issue of the “Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics,” the average age of diagnosis is 5 years.

The number of reported cases of autism is currently on the rise. However, it is not clear whether this rise is due to better detection and reporting of autism, an actual increase in the number of cases or a combination of both.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in 88 American children are diagnosed within the autism spectrum disorder. This number is a 78-percent increase compared to a decade ago. The report also stated that certain population groups have higher trends, and that boys (one in 54) are typically more affected than girls (one in 252).

Currently, no defined cause for autism nor a specific treatment for the disorder is available — one of the most devastating aspects of autism, which often leaves the parents of autistic children with a feeling of helplessness.

However, many support groups and therapies — including occupational, speech, early intervention services and applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, intervention, with evidenced-based treatments — have been shown to increase the quality of life for the person affected by autism.

Tricare is leading the way for providing services to persons with autism through its Extended Care Health Option Autism Services Demonstration program, which provides a specified number of ABA therapy hours per week at a cost set by the service member’s pay grade.

Additionally, the Army partners with respite care providers to allow parents and caregivers of a person with autism time to recharge and take a break, something that these parents and caregivers often forget or are unable to do.

Another resource available to service members and Department of Defense civilians is the Exceptional Family Member Program, a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide a comprehensive, coordinated and multidisciplinary approach for medical, educational and community support services to families with special needs.

Walk Now for Autism

Honolulu’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks is 7 a.m., June 12, at Ala Moana Beach Park, to raise funds for autism research. Register at

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Category: Community, Health

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