Raising Autism Awareness Locally: Indiana rates sixth highest in the country
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that an average of 1 in 110 children in the U.S have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—making it the most rapidly growing serious developmental disability in the United States. Unfortunately, Indiana mirrors the national average with an estimated incidence rate of 1 in 83—the sixth highest in the country.
As autism becomes more prevalent, raising awareness becomes more crucial because though autism is a complex disorder, in many cases early intervention can bring significant improvements. Local advocate, Jane Grimes, has seen those improvements first-hand. Her daughter was diagnosed with autism six years ago at the age of 7. Since then, Grimes has spent countless hours supporting families and individuals affected with autism, and dedicated herself to creating awareness and identifying resources in the local community.
As the enrollment director for Applied Behavior Center for Autism and founder and president of the nonprofit Indiana Autism Scholarship Foundation, she has seen both the positive and the negative. “Early intervention can certainly make a great impact on the transition into kindergarten,” she explains. “However, there is a real lack of support and awareness at the teenage level.” She says though many autistic teens go on to college, many do not. In that case, businesses are simply not prepared to employ a person with autism.
“There is not one individual with autism that shouldn’t be able to work in some setting, but it’s important to start early, even if that means volunteering in an effort to build skills,” notes Grimes.
As for recognizing signs of autism, Grimes says her best advice is to “educate yourself and go with your gut instinct.” Though there is no simple way to test for autism, parents should be aware of how a child is developing. For example, if a child is not putting words together or has no interest in toys at the age of two, a pediatrician should be consulted. But, be prepared prior for the visit, suggests Grimes. “You really have to educate yourself on what to ask. Get the DSM IV, the main diagnostic reference used by mental health professionals in the U.S., which lists the clinical criteria for the diagnosis of autism. If you need help, speak with someone in the autism community. We are all in this together.”