STATE REP. HUNTER: Here's What You Need to Know About National Autism Awareness Month

Although Autism can be a lifelong disorder, treatments & services do improve a person’s symptoms. ability to function

By State Rep. Todd Hunter

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) — April is National Autism Awareness Month. Awareness months are helpful because they bring public attention to issues facing many of our friends and families. Autism is no different.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the medical term for Autism is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is described as a group of developmental disabilities which can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. 

Its important to note that individuals diagnosed with ASD differ in their learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities. Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience.

The National Institute of Mental Health further characterizes ASD as:
  • Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others
  • Repetitive behaviors, as well as limited interests or activities
  • Symptoms that typically are recognized during early childhood
  • Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
Further explanation of these characteristics can be found at the National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center.

Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism, but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children.

In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited.

It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop. However, ASD can usually be diagnosed by the age of two.

There are a variety of organizations that provide helpful resources and information regarding ASD.  One such organization is the Autism Society which was founded in 1965 by Bernard Rimland, Ph. D, whose own son was diagnosed with ASD.  Since its formation, the Autism Society has grown from a handful of parents to having Local State Affiliate offices in nearly all 50 states. These offices are connected through a network that enables the Autism Society to share resources like referral services and education/awareness programs.

The Autism Society is dedicated to its role of increasing public awareness about ASD, which includes the day to day challenges faced by individuals, families and professionals affected by ASD.
  And as always, if you have questions or comments regarding any of the information or legislative processes mentioned above, please don't hesitate to call my Capitol or District Offices (Capitol Office: 512-463-0672 – District Office: 361-949-4603). As always, we're available at any time to assist you with questions, concerns, or comments.

And please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas State Agency, or if you'd like help regarding Constituent Services. Your ideas and information are important forms of feedback, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact my office.

If you'd like to review more about the Texas State Legislature, visit the Texas Legislature Online.
State Representative Todd Hunter serves the constituents of Texas House District 32, which is composed of Aransas, Calhoun, San Patricio and part of Nueces County.