They may not make eye contact, or respond to a parent’s smile. They may not speak, or react to the sound of their name being called. They may spin or twirl their fingers, not notice smells or sounds, or look at objects from unusual angles.
They’re all signs of autism, which affects one of every 59 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While an autism diagnosis is justifiably a cause for concern among parents, early intervention and treatment have been shown to help patients manage symptoms — or sometimes, overcome them.
“We know more about meeting the needs of individuals with autism than any time in the past,” says Dr. R. Larry Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC), one of the collaborative partners of the UofL Autism Center at Kosair Charities. “Parents of children with autism can look forward to their child accomplishing more than ever thought possible."
Leading the way in that effort is Kosair Charities, an advocate for the welfare of the children of Kentucky and Southern Indiana since its founding almost a century ago. Today, Kosair Charities supports three organizations central to the fight, as well as countless children with the diagnosis: the Bluegrass Center for Autism, housed at Kosair Charities’ East Campus; grant support to Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Louisville; and the UofL Autism Center, whose facility is provided through a charitable lease agreement. Kirk Carter, Kosair Charities Board of Directors, was also recently appointed as a member of Kentucky’s Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“Bluegrass Center for Autism staff and families feel lucky to have such a wonderful partner and support system,” says program director Christen Byrne. “Without the generosity of Kosair Charities, BCA would be forced to pass additional costs on to their families that would make access to treatment even more difficult.”
The road to diagnosis and treatment begins with knowing the facts, among them these five things:
1. It Affects More Boys Than Girls
Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks. The rate is 1 in 37 for boys and 1 in 151 in girls. Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups although minorities are usually diagnosed later and less often.
2. Not All Patients Are Nonverbal
Although not speaking can be a sign of autism in children, only about one-third of those with autism are nonverbal. Almost as many (31 percent) have an intellectual disability that poses significant challenges in their daily function. Another 25 percent of autism patients have borderline intellectual difficulties.
3. Vaccines Do Not Cause It
Despite pseudoscience that continues to exist in social media, autism is not caused by childhood vaccinations. Significant research has been devoted to the topic, and studies have shown no links between autism and vaccines, according to the CDC. Research shows genetics are involved in the vast majority of autism causes, according to Autism Speaks.
4. Other Challenges Exist
Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied. Half of those with the disorder wander or bolt from safety. Nearly 28 percent exhibit injurious behaviors, such as head banging or arm biting. Drowning is an ever-present concern, accounting for the vast majority of deaths of children who wander from safety. Autism can be accompanied by other health issues like obesity, anxiety, depression, ADHD and gastrointestinal disorders.
5. It Can Bring a Financial Burden
Autism on average costs families $60,000 per year, both treatment services and lost income, per Autism Speaks. Those costs rise when intellectual disability is present. The cost of caring for Americans with autism reached $268 billion in 2015, with most of that going toward treatment services for autistic adults.
All of which increases the importance of organizations like Kosair, which helps ease the financial burden through its partnerships. Bluegrass Center for Autism works to prepare children with autism and other related disorders to transition into the adult world. The Kentucky Autism Training Center works statewide to provide training and resources to families and treatment professionals with the goal of improving the quality of life for autism patients.
“I could have never navigated the state’s Medicaid service without the consultation I received from KATC,” says the parent of an autistic child. “I will be forever grateful.”
Kosair Charities has worked since 1923 to show children in Kentucky and Southern Indiana their potential, instead of their obstacles. Learn more today about how to support Kosair Charities and its partnerships addressing childhood autism.