Autism and autism spectrum disorder are both general terms for a group of complex brain development disorders. Autism includes a wide range, or what is commonly referred to as a spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.
Persons on the autism spectrum often have these characteristics: 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 in the first two years of life and symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function.
There is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism.
A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.
In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of non-genetic, or “environmental,” stresses appear to further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth.
They include advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal illness during pregnancy and certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain.
It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.
A growing body of research suggests that a woman can reduce her risk of having a child with autism by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and/or eating a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) during the months before and after conception.
Increasingly, researchers are looking at the role of the immune system in autism.
Furthermore, people with ASD may have other difficulties, such as being very sensitive to light, noise, clothing, or temperature. They may also experience sleep problems, digestion problems, and irritability.
ASD is unique in that it is common for people with ASD to have many strengths and abilities in addition to challenges.
Strengths and abilities may include:
- Having above-average intelligence – the CDC reports 46% of ASD children have above average intelligence
- Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
- Being strong visual and auditory learners
- Excelling in math, science, music, or art.
There exists only a few places in Guyana equipped to deal with ASD cases, one such resource is the Step by Step Foundation and school. It was founded in 2011 and has retained the service of a behavioral analyst who consults, supervises and trains personnel that work with kids on the Autistic spectrum as well as other neurological disorders.
They have a website and Facebook page (Website – http://stepbystepguyana.org/ . Facebook page – Step by Step Guyana) that give valuable information about the disorder and insights into the activities of the school and students there.
The Step by Step Foundation relies heavily on sponsorship and fundraising activities to keep their programs and school going. They have acquired land upon which they intend to build a larger and more comprehensive school that would be able to accommodate more children and better meet their needs.
If you would like to make a donation to the foundation, their information is as follows:
Name of Organization – The Step by Step Foundation
Bank – Republic Bank Guyana, 38-40 Water Street, Georgetown, Guyana.
Swiftcode for those residing abroad – RBGLGYGG Acct# 651 5761
Cheques payable to The Step by Step Foundation can be delivered to 4 Public Road Ogle, East Coast Demerara / 3 Bagotstown, East Coast Demerara
Us Donors can make donations to ‘Step by Step Foundation’ – 6 Archdale Road, Roslindale, MA 02131