The range of diagnoses called Autism Spectrum Disorders are the most common developmental disabilities in the United States, affecting nearly 1 in 64 children. Children with ASD have communication differences ranging from severe in the case of non-verbal children to higher functioning verbal children who often show a lack of well-developed social communication skills. Nation-wide, every 11 minutes a child is born with ASD.
Raising a child with ASD can be expensive – public schools are required to provide ASD therapies to children, but the level of help provided is small (e.g. a few hours per week) compared to the need (e.g. 30 hours of therapy or more per week). Private therapists are expensive, and insurance coverage in Georgia is limited. Therapy for an ASD child can often run over $30,000 per year, and costs are estimated to be on the order of $1 million over a lifetime of an individual with ASD.
In addition to high cost of ASD, the emotional and social toll on a family can be huge. After first learning that their child may have ASD, many families are overwhelmed with guilt, uncertainty and emotional stress. On learning of the many financial challenges, many families can be crushed and uncertain where to turn for advice and support. The ongoing stress of caring for an ASD child over years can contribute to significant family challenges for parents and siblings alike. This often creates significant needs that many ASD families lack the resources to meet - TNY was created to help families meet this gap and find success and fulfillment in their lives.
"Autism symptoms can vary greatly from child to child, depending on the severity of the disorder."
Even as infants, children with ASD may seem different, especially when compared to other children their own age. They may become overly focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, or fail to engage in typical babbling with their parents. In other cases, children may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
The severity of ASD can vary greatly and is based on the degree to which social communication, insistence of sameness of activities and surroundings, and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the daily functioning of the individual.
Many people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly challenging. Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact with other people, and only interact with others to achieve specific goals. Often children with ASD do not understand how to play or engage with other children and may prefer to be alone. People with ASD may find it difficult to understand other people’s feelings or talk about their own feelings.
People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate. Some children with ASD may have delayed speech and language skills, may repeat phrases, and give unrelated answers to questions. In addition, people with ASD can have a hard time using and understanding non-verbal cues such as gestures, body language, or tone of voice. For example, young children with ASD might not understand what it means to wave goodbye. People with ASD may also speak in flat, robot-like or a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.
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