Autism rates increase, local professionals strapped for answers

Autism rates increase, local professionals strapped for answers

ABILENE, Texas - Autism rates have jumped 30 percent in the past two years. In 2010, there was a one in 88 chance. Now there's a one in 68 chance of a child having autism.

Medical professionals -- like Melissa Richardson from the West Texas Autism Center in Abilene -- still don't have the research to determine why the rates have drastically increased.

"There are just lots of areas, genetics, as well as environmental causes that are being researched, but at this point we still don't know definitively what the cause is," Richardson said.

She said more and more families are seeking help. That includes Stephanie Prosser, whose husband and son both have forms of autism.

Prosser said her son was diagnosed at the age of two. He's four now, but without early diagnosis for her son, Prosser said he wouldn't have gotten the help that he needed through various therapies.

"Getting those tools and those resources and the necessary information helped us give him so much aid that he is almost caught up to his age level now," Prosser said.

Richardson encourages parents to watch for specific warning signs in children.

"There are red flags you can look for when the child is young," Richardson said. "You want to look for a lack of eye contact, a lack of joint attention where if a typical child at a very young age sees something interesting. They want to share that with their parents and a child with autism might not."

If you suspect or wonder if your child might have autism, talk to your pediatrician right away.

April is Autism Awareness Month and Reach for Difference and Subway are teaming up for a fundraiser. On April 2, five Abilene Subway locations on Pine Street, Antilley, North Mockingbird, South 1st and Highway 351 will be donating a percentage of their profits to the non-profit organization.

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