Autism: More questions than answers

Autism: More questions than answers
Dr. Susan Swedo, a woman with a close connection to Vermillion, agrees with one of the paramount themes of the Nov. 27 edition of Newsweek magazine.

Autism isn't just a young child's disorder any longer.

This growing medical problem, first noticed, at best, sometime in the 1980s in the United States, has now become commonplace.

And the early generations of young children to be diagnosed as autistic aren't children any longer. Many are teens in puberty. Some are young adults.

Autistic children can count on special education programs offered in public schools to help them adjust to some of the problems brought about by this disorder.

But a growing number of parents today are becoming desperate. Their austistic children, now grown, have no place to go for help.

"We have so much in place for early intervention compared to how little we have in the way of laws or money or any kind of support for these kinds of individuals," said Dr. Swedo, the daughter of Edis Anderson of Vermillion and the late Sidney E. Anderson.

Autism Speaks and other support groups, she said, want autism to be labeled an epidemic in this country.

"I don't think we have the epidemiological data to support that, but we certainly have the public health repercussions coming down," Dr. Swedo said. "It's huge. The families are more worried about that than possibly anything."

Typically, parents of autistic children need some time to get over the shock of learning that they must deal with a lifelong health care problem that has no cure.

"The first thing that starts needing to be dealt with is, ?How do we protect our son? What is going to happen to him when we aren't here to provide for him any more?' "

Dr. Swedo's research is focused mainly on very young autistic children. She hasn't delved into the possibilities of whether behavioral or drug treatments that are commonly shown to help youngsters may provide similar benefits to adults.

"One of the things that people tend to do is observe that autistic individuals tend to plateau and don't make any more progress," she said.

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