Autism is a developmental disability that becomes recognizable between 15 and 20 months of age. Previously, children were considered to be born with the disorder. Now, in most cases, the child progresses normally and then begins to regress losing speech, social skills and physical abilities. Although there are varying degrees of severity, most children completely withdraw into a world of their own.
A frightening aspect of the disorder is that children cannot assess sensory input properly. Autistic children cannot perceive fear or dangerous situations, nor can they filter and ignore stimulus. This sensory overload would be equivalent to being intensely aware of the feel and color of paper, the sensation of each article of clothing you are wearing, every single sound coming from the street and inside the building around you, and the fluorescent lights and every object that reflects the light near you. If a child with autism could read this letter they would have to endure all of this and more while trying to concentrate and comprehend this material. Normal functioning under this kind of sensory bombardment is nearly impossible.
Autistic children typically have a host of biomedical and neurological problems as well. Many suffer from chronic diarrhea because their intestines are so damaged that they cannot absorb vital nutrients, minerals and vitamins essential for optimal brain function. Liver and kidney functions are impaired causing their bodies to store up high levels of toxins found in the environment such as lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic and other heavy metals. Their immune systems are compromised to the extent that they cannot fight off even the simplest of fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections.
The current consensus is… children do not outgrow autism. There is no cure. It is a lifelong disability with a normal life expectancy. It affects boys five times more than it affects girls, although girls are generally more severely affected. In the United States more than one and a half million individuals live with autism, making it more prevalent than Down Syndrome, childhood diabetes and childhood cancer combined.
Many children improve with medical help to digest their food and filter out the accumulated toxins. Therapies can help these individuals grow new brain pathways to gain skills. There are cases of recovered autistic children, but at this point the cases are rare. Recovered cases usually include intense one-on-one therapies with a minimum of 40 hours per week, coupled with a sound medical/nutritional program. More research and communication with autism professionals is needed to help recover these precious children, to get them the proper medical and therapeutic interventions.
There may not be a current cure, but we hope and pray that science will be able to catch up with the needs of these children.