Archive for July 17th, 2008

Recognizing Common Signs of Autism

There are common and not-so-common signs of autism.  The most common signs and symptoms of autism include difficulty interacting socially, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors with very limited interests.  All of these symptoms can range from very mild to extreme and disabling.

The most significant symptom of autism is social interaction that is impaired or becomes impaired by the child withdrawing. The child seems to start out normally and withdraw over time. This is usually noticeable to the parents as it becomes a strong personality factor.  For instance, many children with autism do not respond to their name and do not  make much eye contact with other people.

Other symptoms that are not as well known include beginning to speak much later than other children and often referring to themselves by name rather than using the words ”I” or “me.”  They also have difficulty interacting and playing with other children and sometimes speak in a voice that sounds sort of as if they are singing. 

Most children with autism do not like to be cuddled, hugged or even touched too much.  Research has found that this is because many children with autism have a very reduced sensitivity to pain but their body compensates with an abnormally high sensitivity to sound, touch or other sensory stimulation. 

Children with autism also have a high incidence of co-existing conditions including Tourette’s syndrome, tumors on the brain, mental retardation, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (add).  Between 20% and 30% of  children with autism also develop epilepsy by the time they are adults, however, research has not provided a specific reason for this.

Though many of the reasons for autism are not clear, some of the latest studies have found that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved.  Researchers have found more answers and better treatment as studies have continued, and there is more and more indication that proper identification as early as possible may result in better treatment and marked improvement for many children with autism.

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Illinois: Autism Should be Covered by Insurance

Autism is a complex disorder.  Not only is it unclear exactly what causes it, it also manifests itself differently in each individual with the diagnosis.  In addition, like many other diseases and disorders, there are varying degrees of autism, from “high functioning” to the other end of the spectrum where individuals have severe symptoms that take a tremendous amount of time and effort to work with, often without yielding a tremendous amount of results or improvement.  As a result, autism remains poorly understood and has cost many thousands of families their life savings.

The Governor of one state – the state of Illinois – wants to do something about that.  To try to help families get diagnosis and treatment for family members with autism – especially their children – Governor Blagojevich is asking insurance companies to cover children with autism up to $36,000 in benefits per year and provide for unlimited office visits until they reach age 21.

The Governor, who stated that 26,000 children have been diagnosed with autism in his state of Illinois, made it clear that he felt that it was important to help families who were doing what they were supposed to do.  When a family is working hard, paying taxes and paying for insurance, it is inequitable that they could lose everything because the insurance they are paying for will not cover their children when dealing with a devastating disease such as autism.  Currently it is only possible for some families to get limited coverage through very large group policies.  Therefore, if a family has an individual policy or most smaller group policies, most or all of their expenses for autism diagnosis and treatment end up being out-of-pocket costs that have them mortgage their homes, depleting their savings, and ransacking their retirement plans – even though they are paying for insurance coverage every month!

The steps that Illinois is taking to try to address this issue are steps that will hopefully lead other states – and the country – into helping all families dealing with the effects of autism in their lives. 

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