Autism: Answers and Understanding

Published: Oct. 4, 2012 at 1:28 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2012 at 3:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The numbers are startling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate in one in 88 children will be diagnosed with Autism by the age of eight. The prevalence rate is even higher for boys where it's one in 54.

"We now have an epidemic of Autism in the United States," said Dr. Geri Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks. " We need to view it as a public health crisis that needs a national strategy."

A WBTV News 3 "On Your Side" special, "Autism: Answers and Understanding" examined many of the key issues facing families who have a child on the Autism spectrum.

"If we intervene early and we work on language and we work on social skills and we work on the developmental skills than the long term prognosis is better," said pediatrician Dr. Joseph Stegman.

It's why an early diagnosis is so important.  Pediatricians should be doing Autism screenings at well-baby visits at 18 and 24 months. Doctors are looking for basic milestones like smiling, interaction, eye-contact and verbal skills.

Amanda Childress has a son Lawson who was diagnosed two years ago.

"You would see those kids in the grocery store that would be hanging out of the cart and you would say gosh that mom can't get those kids under control," said Childress. "Now, I'm that mom and it's like but, there's a reason why."

While there is so much we don't yet know about Autism and its causes, real progress is being made.  A lot of groundbreaking research is being done here in the Carolinas.

"These findings have been accelerating at a rapid pace," said Dr. Mark Zylka who is a researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill. "I really do think a lot of it has to do with the increased funding and increased awareness."

Autism Speaks has funded more than $170 million in scientific research. Most of the money comes from fundraising walks held across the county. The Carolinas Walk Now for Autism Speaks will be October 27th at zMax Dragway in Concord. Learn more about creating a team, joining one or making a donation by clicking here.

Other links to more information about topics discussed during "Autism: Answers and Understanding" can be found on the left side of this screen.

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