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National Experts Offer Practical Tips for Parents Concerned about Autism
Date:4/1/2009

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day

VILLANOVA, Pa. and 15 Centers Nationwide, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Everyday, 67 children are diagnosed with autism, in boys, the likelihood of an autism diagnosis is four times that of girls. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, yet startlingly, many parents don't know how to spot the early warning signs of autism in their children or where to turn for help when those signs are identified.

Devereux, the nation's largest non-profit providing behavioral healthcare for children, adolescents and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders and mental illness, has been a leader in diagnosing, and caring for those with autism through quality educational, training and support services since the 1940s.

"So much is being learned about the complex and confusing world of autism," says Bob Kreider, president and CEO of Devereux, "but from the practical perspective, for parents who are concerned about the warning signs and how to properly identify issues they are seeing with their children, little is available. And once those signs are properly identified, it's even more difficult to find the correct course of treatment and care to help children live fulfilling lives. Parents are a child's primary advocate and most important support system. No one - no doctor or expert knows a child like their parents. Empowering parents with information so they can access the resources and services that their children need is critical for the most successful outcomes."

Ten Tips for Parents

To that end, the experts at Devereux, through decades of work - and some of the earliest and most storied treatment of autism in the disorder's history - have developed a list of early indicators for parents to watch for in their young children. These signs are not meant as diagnostic tools, but rather as guidelines to help parents direct their thoughts and conversations with experts. Parents should watch for:

  1. A child who doesn't make eye contact, fails to show enthusiasm for caregivers as they approach, who doesn't examine the faces of others and does not offer a social smile.
  2. A child who doesn't engage in conversation with others.
  3. A child who does not enjoy common games that other children enjoy such as tickle games or hide-and-seek.
  4. A child who may not appropriately play with common toys.
  5. A child who engages in repetitive movements such as hand flapping.
  6. A child who does not imitate the vocal sounds or actions of peers or adults.
  7. A child who is delayed in talking, gestures and use of facial expressions.
  8. A child who doesn't seem to understand others' verbal and non-verbal communication.
  9. A child who had learned to talk and picked up on social skills, but seems to suddenly regress and not speak or connect with others.
  10. A child whose development was progressing normally and then suddenly regresses noticeably.

Parents, who may be concerned that their child shows signs of autism, should contact their pediatrician or a health professional with experience in the field of autism or developmental disabilities.

"With autism reaching alarming rates, it is crucial that families receive an accurate diagnosis so that early intervention can immediately begin," explains Dr. Lorrie Henderson, senior vice president and chief clinical officer for Devereux. "Clinical experts agree that an early diagnosis and intervention are important to helping a child build their cognitive and language skills. Parents need to begin to look for effective educational programs at a very early age. Partnering with a quality provider that can not only educate children, but also helps young adults and their parents prepare for a life that is as independent and productive as possible will be paramount in achieving success."

Devereux's History with Autism

Dr. Leo Kanner, who first identified Autistic Disturbances of Affective Disorder in children and a former national Devereux trustee, contacted Devereux founder, Miss Helena Devereux, looking for a place to educate children diagnosed with autism early in the history of the disorder. That began Devereux's long history with helping individuals with autism and their families. Today, Devereux serves more than 600 children, adolescents and adults with a primary and secondary diagnosis of autism at centers located throughout the United States, offering specialized educational programs, vocational training, social skills development, group homes and supported living services that encompass a continuum of care.

National experts, including Bob Kreider and Dr. Lorrie Henderson are available for interviews on autism, these ten practical tips to help parents, the disorder's impact on families and early intervention and education. For more information, please call Abbey Luterick at 610.542.3030 or 610.291.5902.

Devereux is the nation's largest nonprofit provider serving children, adolescents, and adults with behavioral, mental health and intellectual/ developmental disabilities. Founded in 1912 by a Philadelphia schoolteacher, Helena Trafford Devereux, the Devereux Philosophy of Care focuses on bringing out the strengths of each individual through research-based assessment and treatment programs. Devereux employs nearly 6000 staff and operates 15 centers in 11 states, providing services to over 15,000, annually.


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