What is autism?
Autism refers to a wide range—a spectrum—of behaviors that include challenges with social skills, behaviors, and delayed milestones in development. It is not an illness; rather, a different way that the brain processes information. Dr. Stephen Shore, an autism advocate who is on the spectrum, said: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” People diagnosed with autism possess unique strengths and struggles, and then cope with those situations differently.
Can autism be cured?
An individual will always have autism—you do not grow out of it. Therapies help individuals cope and engage their life with more ease and success.
At what age should assessment take place?
The earlier, the better. Ideally, a child will be diagnosed as early as 18 months, but it can occur as soon as symptoms are noticed. If parents/caregivers notice delayed milestones, they should talk to their physician for a referral to appropriate services. The value of a diagnosis lies in insurance coverage. Companies will not cover therapy payments without a diagnosis.
Where can I get a diagnosis?
An autism diagnosis must come from a clinical psychologist or behavioral pediatrician. Easterseals is expanding autism services and now has on staff two clinical psychologists offering assessments within our new Autism Center of Excellence.
After diagnosis, then what?
If your loved one is diagnosed with autism, your next steps depend on the degree of the individual’s diagnosis, but know that options are not limited. Education—both mainstream and specialized programs—is available with individualized plans. Employment and all of life’s enrichments are available to meet your loved one’s needs and interests.
"It is not an illness; rather, a different way that the brain processes information."
Nicole Murby is the Senior Director of Therapy & Programs at Easterseals Southwest Florida, a 75-year-old agency serving people with disabilities. In April, she will lead the opening of the agency’s new Autism Center of Excellence, which will offer assessments, diagnosis, therapies, and supply resources for community services.