Autism affects one of 68 children. It is a lifelong developmental genetic condition that affects individuals of every race, socioeconomic status and faith. Symptoms are evident in some children as early as 18 months of age. Notably, the ratio of males to females diagnosed with autism is close to 4 to 1.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes what used to be called Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett syndrome and Asperger syndrome. While you may still hear these names and terms used by community members in conversation, the medical, psychiatric and educational communities began in 2013 to recognize these conditions inclusively under the larger umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
A diagnosis of autism can often send family members into a spiral of confusion, distress and denial. Some families are concerned about identifying their child/family member as “autistic” because of the stigma attached to mental health and mental illness. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation exists about autism, its treatments and those attempting to show the “authoritative” origin of autism or ways to “cure/eliminate” autism without scientifically verified data from reputable sources. For many reasons, some family members may not want to address the concerns. Others may embrace that professionals “have a name” for something that has caused their child and family great frustration, and they are eager to learn about the condition and treatment options.
Here in Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have three of the best resources in the United States to support the identification and early interventions for people with autism. These resources are supplemented by many renowned online resources from the medical and academic communities. We are also fortunate that Los Angeles, as an entertainment industry hub, offers supportive employment opportunities that emphasize the unique skills of persons with autism.
USC, UCLA and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are three local research and treatment collaborations.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) has partnered with University of Southern California (USC) and the USC Keck School of Medicine through the Institute for the Developing Mind and the Boone Fetter Clinic to provide research, evaluation, intervention and community supports for children with developmental concerns, including ASD.
The Semel Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) is a recognized National Institute of Health Autism Center for Excellence. Through its Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) at UCLA, it provides children and their families information and treatment options. CART presented its cutting-edge research from various medical specialties and their most current findings at its annual symposium addressing issues that affect persons with ASD. They include epilepsy, insomnia, gastrointestinal and dietary concerns, neuroimaging and current drug treatments.
AUTISM IN ADULTHOOD AND THE ACADEMY AWARDS CONNECTION
Youths through age 22 historically have been the focus of attention and support for individuals with autism. However, autism affects an individual over the course of their lifetime and they may experience difficulties transitioning to life beyond high school. CART’s annual symposium highlighted this difficulty because many young adults are attempting to navigate early adulthood — relationships, employment, finances and services — and are struggling to establish their independence along the way.
That is where Exceptional Minds arrives on the scene. Individuals with autism are often more comfortable with technology than interpersonal contact. Their unique abilities (being technologically savvy and hyper focused with an attention to detail) are an excellent match to a career in the technical arts. This was the birth of Exceptional Minds, a postproduction animation house in Sherman Oaks, California. Exceptional Minds is a vocational training program for young adults with ASD where they are recruited, trained and ultimately employed doing things with unique skills that make them highly desirable employees. Exceptional Minds has contracts with many studios and its recent work was highlighted in the Marvel movie Doctor Strange, which was nominated for a visual effects Oscar in 2017.
Research and information relating to autism diagnosis and treatment continue to expand, but this can raise more questions or personal concerns for you if you are struggling to support someone with ASD. We offer the following ASD resources that were referenced in this article.
We are also available to support you through confidential appointments in our offices at Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.