Avera Medical Minute: Autism - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera Medical Minute: Autism

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Understanding Autism Understanding Autism

Are you 1 of the 1.5 million people in this country affected by autism?
The latest study done by the Centers for Disease Control found 1 in 150 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder and yet so little is known about it. Autism is a very complex developmental disorder that usually appears in the first 3 years of life.   It's often misunderstood and misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until years later. We're lucky to have a resource like Avera Behavioral Health Services in Sioux Falls that's dedicated to treating childhood behavioral health conditions.

We met Lin Wessels of Rock Rapids when John McCain was campaigning in Northwest Iowa. She hates that her son Sam is a statistic not backed by research to change it. He's autistic. 1 in 94 boys is in this country and scientists still don't know what causes the disorder.

Psychologist Dr. Beverly Gunderson at Avera University Psychiatric Associates in Sioux Falls says children with autism don't respond in the same manner as other people. They are missing the connection in their brain that relates to communication and social interaction.

Dr. Gunderson says, "I think if people could understand that a child with autism is not naughty it would help with perception. They are having difficulty communicating. The world is not making sense to them and they may throw a temper tantrum because the world doesn't make sense. Autism has nothing to do with their IQ either. It has everything to do with behavior."

You know how you might talk badly about your boss behind their back. Kids may do the same about the principal. A child with autism would call the principal bad names to their face because they don't have the social awareness to know better.

Dr. Gunderson says, "We need to train parents on understanding the characteristic of autism and how the child's behaviors relate to those characteristics so you can anticipate what might be a problem and avoid it."

Dr. Gunderson says autistic kids don't react well to change. Like like order in their lives. And order to co-exist peacefully, Lin Wessels, along with millions of families dealing with autism, has to figure out how to anticipate change and know how to react to it.

You never "outgrow" autism. Once you have it, you will always have it.  Dr. Gunderson says the reason you usually don't hear about adults with the disorder is because most of them live as shut-ins and are often dealing with depression.


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