The Developmental Disabilities Institute Empowers Long Islanders During Autism Awareness Month

Written by Julie Grilli  |  05. April 2011

In honor of Autism Awareness month, April, the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), a leading service provider for children and adults with autism on Long Island, would like to take the time to empower parents of children and adults with Autism or other developmental disabilities with education and knowledge about these disorders and what options are available for their loved ones Autism is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and is typically diagnosed before the age of three. Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. While the cause of autism remains a mystery, current research suggests that both genetics and environment play a role. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and can range from those who are nonverbal with severe challenges to individuals on the high-functioning end of the spectrum who are extremely intelligent with good expressive verbal language, but impaired social skills who would be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the alarming rate of autism is 1 in every 110 births and a child is diagnosed on the spectrum. ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. When autism is detected earlier and appropriate intervention is taken, children with ASD can become more functional and learn to adapt to the world around them. No matter the age of the diagnosis, children and adults with ASD are constant learners and significant improvements can be made at any age. Children with autism can display a wide range of symptoms, which can vary in severity from mild to disabling. General symptoms that may be present to some degree in a child with autism include: Not babbling or cooing by 6 months of age. Not making eye contact with parents during interaction or smiling when parents smile by 6 months of age. No gestures, such as pointing or waving by 12 months of age. Repetitive body motions such as rocking or hand flapping at 12 months of age. A fixation on a single object by 12 months of age. Strong resistance to change in routine by 12 months of age. Your child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months. Any loss of words or developmental skill by 24 months. "Recognizing autism spectrum disorders early will ultimately improve the lives of children with ASDs and their families," stated John Lessard, DDI's Executive Director. "If a loved one is showing warning signs for autism, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician immediately." Although recent advances in the education and early intervention of children with autism have resulted in remarkable outcomes for some, many older individuals on the spectrum never received such services at an early age and for that reason and others, many will require ongoing and intensive support throughout their lives. For adults with disabilities, learning vocational skills, as well as training in everyday life and social skills, is the basis for full inclusion into community life. DDI continues its support and training of people of all ages through innovative educational and training programs, employment opportunities and a variety of community living arrangements. DDI is a not-for-profit agency headquartered in Smithtown, NY, with more than 30 locations throughout Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Serving nearly 1,000 children and adults with a diagnosis of an autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), DDI is the largest provider of services for individuals with Autism on Long Island. It provides educational, vocational, and residential programs, as well as medical and dental services for over 5,000 children and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities. DDI also operates family-centered preschool programs for both children with disabilities as well as typically developing students. DDI was founded in 1961 by a group of parents to address the special educational and therapeutic needs of their children with autism or other developmental disabilities. DDI is a member agency of the United Way of Long Island. For more information about DDI, visit www.ddiinfo.org.

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