Heartbeat : Autism Awareness Month

LUBBOCK, TX - April is Autism Awareness Month and Sunday, April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day.

"Autism is a biologically based neurodevelopment disorder that is characterized by two main things," Dr. Jeremy Dalton said. "Kids with autism have a deficit in social interaction and then they also have restrictive, repetitive movements and behaviors."

Dr. Dalton is a Pediatrician with Covenant Medical Group. He said children can be diagnosed as early 18 months to two years old.

"It's important to diagnose as early as possible so we can kind of direct families to the best treatment modalities, so the earlier the better I think," he said.

"I'm sure everyone knows about Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are several different types of autism on that spectrum, so the first is autistic disorder," he said. "That's also known as classic autism or early-infantile autism, or childhood autism, that's the most common type. Then there's also pervasive developmental disorder, and then Asperger disorder."

When it comes to diagnosing children, Dr. Dalton said there are some things doctors will look for in children.

"They notice that the child just has difficulty developing in social relationships and also maintaining that relationship. They can also have some difficulty in communicating as well, but really I think social interactions is the big thing they look for," he said. 

"Also repetitive movements are a big indicator as well, so I think the first thing parents need to do if they suspect any signs or symptoms of autism is to visit with their pediatrician, because depending on the age of the child, some of that can be normal, so I think it's important to have the conversation with their doctor about what is normal and age appropriate and what is not," Dr. Dalton said.

There are some local resources available to people with autism. The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research.

On Sunday, April 30, the Burkhart Center has their annual Burkhart Walk for Autism Awareness. It's from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the John Walker Soccer Complex. More information about the Burkhart Center or their walk can be found on their website.

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