It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Americans have some form of autism, and reports indicate autism is growing at a rate of 10 to 17 percent each year. In an effort to help better educate the public about this neurological disorder, the State Senate voted on Thursday to declare April 2007 as Autism Awareness Month in Oklahoma. Sen. Mike Johnson was the principal author of the measure.
“The current numbers show that autism is now the third most common developmental disability, and it affects one in 150 children born in this country,” said Johnson, R-Kingfisher. “Doctors and scientists still don’t really know exactly what causes it and there is no cure, but with early diagnosis and therapy, these children can be helped.”
Autism is a neurological disorder affecting normal brain functions, causing problems in areas such as social interaction and communication skills. While the disease cannot be cured, the symptoms can improve with therapy. Children with autism do not relate to the world around them the way others do. They may have trouble understanding others or may not communicate. Normal sounds or even being touched can cause physical discomfort.
“Again, therapy can help, sometimes significantly. Fortunately, there are several organizations throughout the state to help raise awareness and provide information and support to children with autism and their families,” Johnson said.
Those organizations include the Oklahoma Autism Network, the Tulsa Autism Foundation, the Edmond Family Center for Autism, the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the Autism Society of America, and the Canadian Valley Autism Support Group.
“Obviously we need to find a cure, but until that day comes it is tremendously important that children with autism here in Oklahoma and everywhere else get an accurate and early diagnosis and treatment to help their future growth and development,” Johnson said. “Raising public awareness about autism can make all the difference.”