Commonwealth citizens living with Autism Spectrum Disorder are important to our communities.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is recognizing services offered to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. However, this is not only important during April. Every day we celebrate individuals who are breaking barriers and contributing to their communities, excelling in employment, and promoting self-advocacy. All individuals living with autism or intellectual disabilities should have autonomy, choice, and opportunities to live everyday lives.
Autism in PA
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
ASD is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is experienced differently for everyone and to varying degrees. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is often referred to as a “spectrum condition.”
In 2021, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD. Currently, more than 180,000 Pennsylvanians are living with autism.
What are the characteristics of ASD?
How is ASD diagnosed?
A medical professional who may have experience with Autism — including pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists — may be able to make an assessment. The evaluation itself can vary depending on the professional administering it, the age of the person being assessed, the severity of his or her needs, and local available resources. A medical assessment for Autism typically includes:
- A medical history of the mother’s pregnancy
- Developmental milestones
- Sensory challenges
- Medical illnesses, including ear infections and seizures
- Any family history of developmental disorders
- Any family history of genetic and metabolic disorders
- An assessment of cognitive functioning
- An assessment of language skills
- An Autism-specific observational test, interview or rating scale
If you have questions or feel you need additional help, try reaching out to a local Autism Society affiliate, an Autism support group, your primary care provider, or possibly another parent with a child or family member with Autism.
Intervention & Support
Every individual with autism has unique strengths and challenges, so there is no definitive approach to autism treatment and intervention. Each autism intervention or treatment plan should be tailored to address the person’s specific needs. A person’s treatment plan can include behavioral interventions, other therapies, and medicines.
Support through ASERT
DHS is responding to the increased prevalence of ASD by expanding access to services, while also working to address the need to build the capacity of professionals trained to assist individuals with autism and their families across their lifespan. The state-funded Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) initiative provides support and information to Pennsylvanians with ASD. ASERT also maintains a collaborative that brings together medical centers, centers for autism research and services, universities, and other providers involved in the treatment and care of individuals of all ages with autism and their families to support service providers, individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and their families.
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