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Autism resources in Spokane.

  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. 
  • Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, in varying degrees -- is a complex disorder and little is known about the cause. However, it is generally accepted that it results from a mix of both genetic and environmental factors.  There is no known cause or cure for autism; but treatment including intensive behavior therapy can help many kids function better.   ("Study finds link between autism and mother's antidepressant use," CBS This Morning, December 15, 2015)
  • The condition is characterized as a disorder that affects social, motor and language development.  People with autism may look normal, but may lack self-discipline and common sense.    
  • Children who are identified early and get help have the best chance for reaching their potential, said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.  The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends autism screening for all children at age 18 months and 2 years, when most cases can be diagnosed.  According to the CDC, the average age for diagnosis is about 4 years old, which might be too late to make a difference. Children who have mild cases of the disorder can often grow out of it.   (Associated Press and the CDC, March 2012)
  • Diagnosing the developmental disorder relies on observing behavior.   Infants who are at risk of autism rarely smile, laugh, or respond to their names, and often experience delayed motor development.
  • There are many children and families who need help.  Autism likely affects roughly 1 million U.S. children and teens.

  • Riding horses benefits many people with disabilities, particularly autism and cerebral palsy. The constant movement of horses seems to require the riders to constantly adjust their balance. Riders, as young as age 3, are accompanied by a leader who helps guide the horse,  This appears to improve the rider's focus, core strength, balance, and communication skills. 

  • Some children struggle with hypertactility, a sensory disorder that amplifies reaction to contact with the external world, resulting in symptoms of anxiousness and fear. One of the main challenges faced by those with the condition involves the effects of most clothing – the texture of which can be severely irritating and often painful.  Compression clothing allows children to feel secure, and can be worn under regular clothing.  It is like a second skin, but on an autistic child, it acts like a hug.  It is usually made from a lycra/nylon blend which is smooth and stretchy and worn tight against the skin. 
    (Source:  "Compression Clothing Helps Children with Autism," by Kara Houser, LDS Sentinel, September 28, 2009, http://latterdaysentinel.com/2009/09/28/compression-clothing-helps-children-with-autism/)

  • One child out of 88 in the U.S. is believed to have autism or a related disorder.  Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the U.S. (Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks).  
  • Autism is almost 5 times more common in boys.  Most children are diagnosed by age 8.  Early intervention can improve the outcome. 

  • Canadian research is raising concerns about a link between autism and antidepressants.  They found that women taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy (a time that is a critical period for fetal brain development) had almost double the risk of having a child who would be diagnosed with autism by age 7.  Mothers who had taken antidepressants during their pregnancies had an 87% increased risk of having a child diagnosed with autism compared to those who did not use the drugs, the researchers concluded.  While that number may sound alarming, experts point out that it's important to keep the numbers in perspective, as the actual risk of a child developing autism is still low.  "We have to keep in mind that this is a relative risk. The prevalence of autism in the population is 1 percent," said Anick Bérard, PhD, who specializes in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy. "So that means an 87 percent increase in risk makes it go from 1 percent to about 1.87 percent."

    About 13% of American women take antidepressants during pregnancy.  Women who are depressed need to plan their pregnancies and inform themselves of the possible risks of the medications they are taking. Untreated depression can also have dire consequences for both mother and baby, as the mother may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs or have an increased risk of suicide.  Therefore, the risks and benefits of antidepressant use during pregnancy need to be considered carefully and discussed with a health are provider.  The full results are published in JAMA Pediatrics.  ("Antidepressant use in pregnancy increases risk of autism:  study,” by Angela Mulholland, CTV, Canadian TV News, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 14, 2015; and "Study finds link between autism and mother's antidepressant use," CBS This Morning, December 15, 2015)
What You Can Do
  • Visit the government’s website which tells you what you should look for in children at age 18 months and 24 months—to determine if they have an inclination toward autism.  Determine if your baby is interacting property.  Is language developing properly?  Are movements appropriate for their age?  The steps to look for it are easy.  http://cdc.gov/autism  
  • Recognize the symptoms.  Learn about the distinctive symptoms of autism.  (These behaviors can range from mild to disabling.)
    • difficulty with social interaction
    • problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
    • repetitive actions or obsessive interests
    • failing to babble or point by the age of 1
    • failing to speak by 16 months, or to smile or make eye contact
    • appearance of hearing impairment
    • not knowing how to play with toys
    • abrupt loss of language or social skills
  • Early detection and intervention is key.  A few children have recovered from autism.  Applied Behavior Analysis has used therapy to help a small percentage of autistic children.  The therapy is very expensive and not widely available.  To learn more, read “The Autism Sourcebook - From A Mother Whose Child Recovered,” by Karen Siff Exkorn..  This book helps parents understand the available help.  
  • Children and adults with autism live, go to school, work and enjoy recreational activities in Spokane.   When your child wanders away from home (which autistic children are prone to do) and does not have the ability to ask for help or even say his or her name, the situation becomes even more dire. 
Those who interact with someone with autism need special instructions to know how to work with them.  For instance, a child with autism may hide from firefighters, be unable to speak, or display inappropriate behavior with law enforcement and medical emergency personnel, making it difficult for professionals to help the person with autism.

The Autism Society has information for parents and professionals to help them identify potential public safety or criminal/juvenile justice situations; and provide possible solutions so the individual with autism, and those who care for them, can be prepared for, stay safe during, and avoid these situations.

The Autism Society began the Safe and Sound initiative in 2005 to provide much-needed resources to the autism community on topics such as general safety, emergency preparedness and prevention, and risk management.  Safe and Sound presents information and strategies that are beneficial to individuals on the spectrum, their families and the professionals who work with them.  They also provide information and training to various first responders—those who are first on the scene in an emergency situation.

Visit the Autism Society’s Store to order Safe and Sound information.  An Emergency Decal can be placed on your door or automobile window to alert First Responders.  A companion piece, the Personal Information Record, provides information to help primary caregivers be prepared in case of emergency and gives on-scene tips for emergency personnel.  The Personal Information Record should be updated regularly and kept in a place where emergency responders have access to relevant information.   http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/how-we-can-help/safe-and-sound/
  • Register you child with Take Me Home, a program established throughout the U.S. which allows police officers to instantly access the name, contact information, and home address of a found child (or adult) who can not relay that information for him/herself.  They can also send a picture of your child out to all the officers if he or she disappears. To set up this program in Spokane, contact Officer Jimmy Donohoe.                         atjdonohoe@ci.pensacola.fl.us.
  • Make friends with neighbors and explain your child's disorder to them, so they can be on alert when they see your child wandering down the street.

  • Introduce children to the new muppet Julia, an autistic character on Sesame Street.  She is intended to reduce the stigma of autism. 

  • Employ a child or adult with autism.  SAP is a software company that has recruited 40 autistic workers globally to give them a chance to use their skills.  Thorkil Sonne who promoted this project, said that while those with autism might lack the social skills recruiters are looking for, they possess many attributes high on their radar as well: intelligence and memory, the ability to see patterns and attention to detail on repetitive tasks.  Many autistic adults are jobless or underemployed. 

    "If we could use skills like I saw among people with autism in software testing, data analysis, quality control, that would be phenomenal," Sonne said. "There is no reason why we should leave these people unemployed when they have so much talent and there are so many vacant jobs in the high tech sector.”

    An important part of leveraging the unique skills of autistic workers is creating a comfort zone.  For example, employees with autism may suffer low self-esteem and feel stressed, but a solution to that is clearly stated goals.  Also, failing to "get" the water cooler talk or sarcasm can be helped by direct communication.  Jose Velasco, who heads up SAP's "Autism at Work" program, said that "What we teach is clarity in communications, empathy, try to understand, put yourself in someone else's shoes," Velasco said.   (CBS News, June 10, 2014)  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-program-at-sap-hires-autistic-adults-for-specialized-skills/

Local Organizations
Additional Resources
Spokane Autism Cooperative
Spokane, WA
Spokane AC@aol.com

Compression Clothing Resources: 




"Compression Clothing Helps Children with Autism," by Kara Houser, LDS Sentinel, September 28, 2009, http://latterdaysentinel.com/2009/09/28/compression-clothing-helps-children-with-autism/)