Advocate editorial board opinion: More should be available to diagnose disorder in area

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Nov. 12, 2011 at 5:12 a.m.

Autism is a mysterious disorder. Why is it mysterious? Because no one really knows what causes it, and no one knows a cure for it. Besides that, there are many types of autism, making it hard to find a cure.

Researchers and those who have dealt with the disorder have observed the signs of autism to be able to diagnose it, although it takes time. The earlier it can be confirmed, the more something can be done about it.

Today in the Advocate, a four-part series of informative stories about the disorder written by Advocate reporter J.R. Ortega begins. We hope the series will bring more awareness of this prevalent disorder, as well as bring to light the struggles parents and caregivers have with autistic children or adults. And perhaps maybe we can ignite a trend to address it more comprehensively in our community.

What is shocking are some statistics about autism. According to, "Experts estimate that two to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females."

And the causes of autism are suspected to be genetic or environmental. But all those with the disorder have varying symptoms, usually dealing with the senses. Those who have the disorder seem disconnected and not focused, but in reality, they know more than we suspect, but they cannot let us know.

A good example is the recent discovery that Steve Jobs' iPad has enabled many who have autism to communicate. Apparently, the consistent digital voice and presentation order of digital choices have broken the communication barrier. Who would have known that a great tool for autism would be a digital device?

Impairment of communication skills, social interaction and certain patterns of behavior in varying degrees are indicators of autism spectrum disorders. "And the disorders range from a severe form (called autistic disorder) to a milder form (Asperger syndrome). Often, ASDs can be reliably detected by the age of 3, and in some cases as early as 18 months," according to the website

Here in Victoria, the Vine School is a private institution for autistic children ages 2 through 10. The learning environment there is designed to meet the learning needs of those with autism spectrum disorders.

We praise the school and its founders, John and Melody Handley and Erin Hatley.

On the other hand, Victoria does not have medical doctors to treat or diagnose the disorder. And those who have children with the disorder, or adults with the disorder, have to travel to larger cities where developmental pediatricians or expanded medical services are available.

We would love to see more in the way of research and help right here in Victoria. And we are certain many here in the community would benefit from that service, as well.

Right now, all of us should become award of this disorder. It does exist in the Crossroads, and it is a reality that will not go away.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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