Written by Dr. Marta Denchfield, U.S. Coast Guard Special Needs Program Manager
Four years ago, President Barack Obama proclaimed April 2, as World Autism Awareness Day and called upon the American public to learn more about autism and take a more active role in the support of individuals affected by this developmental condition.
Autistic spectrum disorder or ASD symptoms range from mild to severe and the condition may pose significant communication and behavioral challenges for persons affected by it. To date, there is no cure for autism, but research shows that early identification and early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development.
According to Autism Speaks.org, the largest organization committed to autism research and advocacy, one school-age child out of every 50 is identified to be on the autistic spectrum. This number does not negate the official government estimate of one in 88 American children, but research suggests that increased autism awareness is helping more children get an early diagnosis. At the same time, many children are going undiagnosed until age seven or older, which reduces their chances to receive early intervention services.
We are committed to providing support to Coast Guard personnel who have family members diagnosed with ASD. Our Family Resource Specialists in each Health, Safety, and Work-Life regional practice are available to provide information and referral to local military and civilian resources and services.