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Editorial: Take time to learn more about autism

What kind of data gets your attention?

If we told you that in the past two years, one in 68 children in the United States, a 30 percent increase over previous numbers, are estimated to have a brain development disorder, chances are you might want to find out more — such problems can cause social and communicative challenges, to name a few.

Or that boys are five times more likely to be afflicted than girls. Perhaps the fact that having a child with this disorder costs an average of $60,000 a year would get your attention. Breaking out a figure for an individual with this disorder reveals that it’s expected to cost $3.2 million over that person’s lifetime.

And here’s another number: $169 million of the 2012 $30.86 billion budget — 0.55 percent — was targeted for research.

All of this information plays a part in why April is Autism Awareness month — when the public is provided information and opportunities to learn more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the issues faced by those affected by it.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website, “A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.” And for each individual “The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.”

What specifically causes ASD remains a mystery, though scientists have determined contributing factors, such as genetics and environment, play a role. Scientists have, however, ruled out a link between autism and certain childhood vaccines.

There is no “cure.” But, as the Mayo Clinic points out, “... intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children with the disorder.”

Admittedly, our presentation of information here is just scratching the surface. We urge you to use Autism Awareness month to learn more, from what autism is to the many organizations that are looking to help those individuals who have been diagnosed. One of those organizations is the United Arc of Franklin and Hampshire Counties.

Use this month, too, to make a financial donation for research or for one of the organizations that provides support for autistic individuals and their families.

Finding answers about autism deserves greater attention.

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