April is Autism Awareness Month.
Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life.
In clinical terms, there are a few absolute indicators, often referred to as â€œred flags,â€ that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the â€œred flagsâ€ that your child should be screened to ensure that he or she is on the right developmental path.
If your baby shows any of these signs, ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases, without imitating or repeating, by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age.
The Center for Disease Control has recently reported that the latest data estimates that one in 88 American children has some form of autism spectrum disorder. That is a 78-percent increase compared to a decade ago. Boys with autism continue to outnumber girls five-to-one, and it is estimated that one in 54 boys in the U.S. has autism. More children are being diagnosed because of better and broader diagnoses and more awareness. CDC is currently working with the Academy of American Pediatrics to recommend that children get screened for autism at 18 months and 24 months even though most children are diagnosed between ages 4 and 5.
The first step in the enrollment process is to visit the Exceptional Family Member Program at the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center. The EFMP is located in Family Care Clinic B.
The next step is to speak with the EFMP case coordinator, Margaret Register. After reviewing the case, if it is deemed necessary, an EFMP enrollment form will be given to the parent along with instructions for completion. An appointment will be made with the childâ€™s primary care manager for evaluation for possible EFMP enrollment.
Once the child has been evaluated by the PCM and meets the requirements for enrollment, the PCM will fill out the form, and the parent will return it to the EFMP case coordinator for final review and completion. A copy of the childâ€™s health summary report will be generated by Western Region Medical Command and made available to the family member, upon request.
Resources, information, support and advocacy for Soldiers and their family members is available at the Army Community Service, Building #50010 on Fort Huachuca. The EFMP Networking Support Group meets the third Wednesday of every month, 5 â€“ 6 p.m., and is open to all.
For more information, call 533.2330.
According to the CDC, early detection of autism is associated with better outcomes. Parents concerned about their child and possibility of autism, should have the child evaluated by their health care provider and call the EFMP case coordinator at RWBAHC, 533.9472.