April is Autism Awareness month and although this is a widespread disorder, awareness and understanding continue to be lacking. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological and developmental disorder that effects 1 out of every 59 people in the United States. It is a complex disorder with no known cause. Individuals diagnosed are unique; with no two people presenting the same characteristics or behaviors. This can cause challenges in recognition of the disorder and delay early intervention. Early intervention, which may include speech, occupational, or ABA therapy; is critical to improving outcomes and a diagnosis can be made as early as 18 months old.
Children in foster care often display developmental delays, but a combination of other specific identifiers may be observed. It is also more prevalent in boys. Some signs to look for include: Delays in language, repetitive use of language or other mannerisms (flapping, rocking), little or no eye contact, resistance to changes in routine, lack of interest in social interaction, and difficulty understanding feelings.
Should these signs be observed, a child’s pediatrician should be consulted. Children in foster care in St. Louis County can be screened at their comprehensive Assessment through the Fostering Healthy Children Clinic at Cardinal Glennon. The pediatrician can refer the child for an additional assessment for an official diagnosis or to rule out the diagnosis. Autism is often a misunderstood diagnosis that may restrict a foster family’s interest in caring for a child with this diagnosis. It is important to remember that autism is a spectrum from mild behaviors to more significant needs. Children with autism have a wide range of abilities from being gifted to requiring supports. Like all children they thrive in a nurturing, supportive home while in foster care or through adoption.
Good Shepherd is currently recruiting adoptive parents for children with autism. If you or someone you know would be interested in learning more, please consider attending the next Informational Meeting on Thursday, May 2nd at 6:00 p.m. at Good Shepherd (1340 Partridge Ave. 63130) or call 314-854-5727.