- Neelys Landing man shot, killed by highway patrol trooper after traffic stop (05/01/16)43
- Cape student sues, accuses school officials of slamming her to ground multiple times (04/28/16)49
- Missouri House votes to allow concealed weapons without permits (04/28/16)8
- River Ridge Winery changes hands (05/02/16)
- Police report filed, but no charges in incident at Cape Central (04/29/16)40
- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
- Statement: Man says cops’ good work drove him to grow his own marijuana (05/01/16)1
- Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau among chain's 21 closings (04/26/16)9
- Senator introduces bill for I-57 that would connect Sikeston with Little Rock (04/28/16)4
- Hopper Road to close for months during construction of Veterans Drive (04/27/16)9
Conversation with a parent points to societal problem
This series began in the comfortable living room of a Jackson home with a reporter asking a mother and father how education reform had affected their autistic son.
The story grew as the parents told a sunshiny tale of their son who one miraculous day in the back seat of their van awoke from two years of silence and became a fairly typical fourth-grader.
But the story turned into springtime thunderheads as black-and-white information turned gray, as physicians, researchers and motivated parents of autistic children accused high-ranking U.S. health officials of skewing vaccine studies that suggest a link between childhood immunizations and autism.
The mainstream medical community, including national health organizations, refute those claims. The theory is based on incomplete studies and bad science, they say. But the medical field offers few other explanations for a sharp increase in autism cases other than better methods of diagnosis.
Whatever the cause, the rate of autism is skyrocketing and more parents are dealing with autism than ever before.
Autism is an incredibly frustrating disorder for the 1.5 million families affected by it. First documented in 1943, autism works like a short-circuit to the brain.
Children can hear but can't respond. They hate foods they once loved. They obsessively stack blocks. They flap their hands. They love to hug or they hate physical contact. They misbehave, sometimes violently, presumably because they are maddened by their inability to communicate.
Parents of these children face a constant battle to find help for a disorder still largely misunderstood.
Perhaps the most important piece of information about autism right now is this: In the late 1980s, the ratio of autistic children was about one in 2,500. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it's as high as one in 166.
Two Southeast Missourian reporters, Callie Clark and Bob Miller, spent more than a month visiting with 16 families and examining the local, state and national issues surrounding autism. Over four days we'll bring you stories about controversies that surround the disorder, parents' struggles to find services and children's triumphs that make the heartache worthwhile.
We hope these stories will provide a glimpse into the autistic world and the challenges this disorder poses for society.
Autism is often referred to as a spectrum disorder because its symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. The following is a list of characteristics. PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL
Term used by the American Psychiatric Association to identify the five autistic spectrum disorders, all of which are characterized by:
Impaired social interaction
Lack on imaginative play
Limited range of interestsAUTISM
Abnormal rate of physical, social and language development
Abnormal response to stimuli such as sight, hearing, taste, touch
Language and speech are absent or delayed
Relate to people, objects and events in abnormal waysRETT'S DISORDER
Diagnosed mostly among girls
Develop normally until between 6 and 18 months of age
Repetitive activities such as hand washing or hand wringingCHILDHOOD DISINTEGRATIVE
Develop normally until at least age 2
Regress in areas such as bladder and bowel control, ability to move and social/language skillsASPERGER'S SYNDROME
The mildest and highest functioning form of pervasive developmental disorder
Often diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or emotional disturbances
Have problems with social language, but vocabulary and grammar not impaired
Have normal to very high IQs
Low self-esteem/lack social skillsPERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER -- NOT OTHERWISE
Similar to autism symptoms, such as avoiding eye contact and indifference to affection
Social and speech impairments
Giggle/scream for no obvious reason
Resistant to change, compulsive behaviors
SOURCES: Missouri Families For Effective Autism Treatment; Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center