LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - It’s estimated that one in every 68 children has an Autism Disorder.
That’s according to the CDC which has named April - Autism Awareness Month.
Sherry Sancibrian is a Professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Parents may appreciate her more for her work as Director of the South Plains Autism Network. That is a support group which meets once a month to help parents and families living with autism understand all the issues that come with that diagnosis, from potty training to college choices.
Sherry says her best advice to parents is to watch for clues early, even when a child is just a baby. She says, “Whether they look at people’s faces, that’s one diagnostic predictor. Babies with Autism don’t look at people’s faces as often as typical babies do. They’re not responding to their name. Maybe they’re not really talking and they’re not pointing. A lot of kids figure out how to tell you something by pointing if they can’t say the word.”
Sherry says if you’re concerned that your child is not interacting with people, talk to your pediatrician. The South Plains Autism Network is also a support group for parents who just suspect autism without an official diagnosis.
She explains, “It’s important when you have a two year old that’s not relating to other people, maybe they’re not talking, that parents say something to their pediatrician because if we could test them with the tests that we have available, we could make a big difference if we find them at age two.”
Autism is defined as a deficit in communication. Sherry says that means that even in children who do talk, there could be a problem if that child finds it difficult to relate to other children. She says, “If you have a three year old who doesn’t seem to enjoy playing with other children, that might be a red flag.”
The first place to take your concerns is your pediatrician.
But again, the South Plains Autism Network is open to anyone who would like more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders and the wide range of symptoms they include. Sherry says, “The great thing is - even if we don’t know if it’s autism, we do know if that child is just not on track. Whether they ultimately get a diagnoses of autism doesn’t really matter because we can do things that will help them anyway.”
The South Plains Autism Network meets on the fourth Tuesday at 6:30 at the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research. The next meeting is scheduled for April 28th. You’ll find that building on the Texas Tech campus on 18th street.