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April 25, 2013
By Elke Zschaebitz

FORT LEE, Va. (April 24, 2013) -- Installation all around the world are currently celebrating the Month of the Military Child, a time to focus on their remarkable resilience, and a companion observance nationwide is Autism Awareness Month.

The April observance brings this fast-growing developmental disorder to the forefront of the news.

Autism represents a spectrum of developmental and neurological disorders that impairs a child's social interaction, communication and behavioral skills. Children with autism may also exhibit hypo or hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli and/or problems with fine and gross motor skills. Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys in the United States.

Autism represents five disorders: Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Child Disintegrative Disorder, Rhett's Disorder and Asperger's Disorder.

Some of the symptoms found in children with autism may include the following:

Poor eye contact; lack of spontaneously sharing of enjoyment or interest with another person; not waving "bye bye" when developmentally appropriate to do so; limited, delayed, or absent speech; repeating of words; pre-occupation with or attachment to objects or parts of objects that interest them; and repetitive motor movements such as body rocking, spinning, hand flapping or finger flicking

The cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders is presently unknown with no known cure, and treatments vary widely. Most involve individual plans of care for each child with early intervention being considered the best -- the earlier the better.

According to a 2013 Autism Speaks report, Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment is the only evidence-based intervention recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Therapies such as ABA along with occupational, physical therapy and speech therapy can dramatically impact a child's life and can be integrated at an early age in school, through early intervention services and through TRICARE services in the home or at an office.

Operation Autism is a military family resource guide found online. Military families can blog, find camps and act as a source of support and guidance for each other.

At Fort Lee, the Exceptional Family Member Program partnering with Army Community Service and the Wilkerson Pediatric Clinic can guide you to getting the resources you need or answer the questions you might have.

Fort Lee Army Community Service hosts a monthly Autism support group as well.

For more information, call (804) 734-6393.