All this week, CNN has aired a special series, Inside Autism, on American Morning. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been examining the questions surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorders. Among the segments being aired:
* What is Autism? What are the signs? The latest CDC numbers say 1 in 175 children are diagnosed with autism, yet researchers still can’t explain why. Why are the numbers so high? Did the change in definition in 1994 cause the rise?
* What Causes Autism? There are several theories of what’s going wrong. We know it’s a neurological disorder and some researchers point to a 7 week period in utero where neurons grow too fast. Some believe it’s genetics, while others continue to believe childhood vaccines still play a role.
* Early Intervention. This is the best hope for these kids. What are the different therapies out there? Dr. Fred Volkmar from Yale, one of the most respected experts in the field of autism, says with early interventions we have more success stories. There are some controversial alternative treatments out there, yet others swear by them. The key is to find what works for your child.
* The Tolls of Autism. It doesn’t only affect the child, but the whole family, often taking a toll on marriages. Parents often have to move to receive the care they deem necessary for their child because there is no standard, and are taking second or third mortgages on their homes to pay for therapies. We profile a family that moved from Florida to New Jersey to get better care. Irony…though autism is a brain disorder, many children receive their care through the school system, not the health care system.
* Autism Success Stories. There is hope. We go to a summer camp that’s actually a social skills intervention program within a regular camp environment. Campers range from 6 to 18 years of age. The adolescent campers have jobs they do at camp and in the community and earn weekly paychecks. There is hope.
Dr. Gupta discusses the signs of Autism in this week’s podcast on Itunes’ Paging Dr. Gupta, which can be found at CNN.com/podcast. Also, Gupta will further explore this topic on his show “House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta” this Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET.