UNDERSTANDING AUTISM

What Is Autism?

According to the AOTA® (The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.), autism is a developmental disability that affects how the brain functions, specifically those areas of the brain that control social ability and communication skills. Boys are more likely to develop autism, and most children are diagnosed before the age of 3.

Children and adults with autism typically have difficulty in both verbal and nonverbal communication. People with autism may have a difficult time relating to the outside world and may have unusual reactions to the people around them. People with autism may demonstrate aggressive behavior that may cause injury to themselves or others. The disorder also may cause sensitivity to the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

I've Been Diagnosed with Autism

This is the main reason AACF, Inc. was founded. Too many independent adults on the spectrum tend to need this kind of assistance mainly because of health and well-being concerns. If we are not healthy, our ability to concentrate and do tasks, like work, are severely hampered. We designed the AACF, Inc. program to ease the financial burden so one can proudly get help. Maintaining ones dignity while coping is of major importance, so, if you've been recently diagnosed and starting life over, this is a good place to start.

Someone I Know Has Autism

Autism is so pervasive today that more family and friends are being put into service assisting those, they know and love, who have or are coping with autism. It's people like you who need to know where people coping with autism can get the tangible direct financial assistance they need. What you are doing is humanitarian in nature. We are here to support this humanitarian effort by giving direct assistance to the coping families. Now you can support them emotionally and direct them to a place where they can get financial assistance.

My Child Has Autism

Many parents are diligently doing early screenings which has revealed more children on the autism spectrum. The challenges you face as a parent raising an autistic child are not to be taken lightly. However, the majority of issues surrounding proper health and social skill development of your child are, in many cases, determined by both healthcare providers and special education professionals. If you are like most struggling families, working paycheck to paycheck, it's difficult to get the kind of care you really need to properly cope with your child's unique spectrum diagnosis.

The Financial Reality

Studies have shown that the average family raising one autistic child can loose as much as $6,200 annually* because of some major financial adjustment they had to make. It might be quitting that second job or quitting a job altogether. When this happens, healthcare is difficult to maintain along with many other financial obligations. The Harvard School of Public Health did a broad based study of the various direct and indirect expenditures that may be incurred during the coarse of raising an autistic child and calculated it could cost up to $3.2 million* in care. A 2010 Easter Seals study showed that 80% of autistic adults 18 to 30 years old (some older) are unemployed* and currently being cared for by aging parents or caretakers in or beyond retirement years. This is unsustainable.

The downward spiral of events can seem endless. Our family has personal experience with these situations and knows the pros and cons of what's involved in getting things back on track financially. We are truly empathetic to this ever changing dynamic and will hear every individual unique case. We are only concerned about helping you create the healthiest environment possible for your autistic child. You've come to the right place.

* SOURCES: Montes, G. Pediatrics, April 2008; vol 121: pp e821-e826. News release, University of Rochester Medical Center. © 2008 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved. News release, Harvard University | Harvard School of Public Health | Todd Datz, contact tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu | 2006. Easter Seals study 2010.

We're Here To Make a Difference

It's average hard working people like you that make this program possible for a family coping with autism. Whether you're a corporate donor or work a forty hour week, an unprecedented 95 percent of your donations are put into a "Safety Net" trust account. These funds are only for giving direct assistance to coping families through debt relief. It's that simple. We purposefully designed this program, with guidance from a well known professional credit counseling service, to target the burdensome debt that is crippling the family, causing them to abandon any special treatment, care or education their autistic loved one so desperately needs. This is a humanitarian effort, not a handout. These diligent proud families are only looking for a level financial playing field. Debt relief is the most sustainable gift one can give a family coping with autism. It gives them the freedom to make tough decisions about the kind of care to give to their child(ren) while keeping their dignity intact. Below are ways you can make that difference. Also, see our Donations section.

  • Business/Personal Check
  • Wire transfer
  • Credit Card
  • PayPal
  • Gifts of Stock
  • In-Kind Gifting
  • Volunteer

Share Your Story

Okay. Now you have a chance to tell it like it is. Share your personal story of coping as a parent, an observing friend or relative, someone on the spectrum or someone who may have received assistance from us. Also tell us about other ways you have made a difference in the lives of those coping with autism. The more positive stories told about this humanitarian effort, the more people will join the movement. We're trying to save the lives of our autistic loved ones by giving them a chance at a better quality of life. The way we do this is by giving them and their families a fighting chance; a level financial playing field to achieve the goal of nurturing the will and skill of an autistic child or dependent adult. What's your story? Write to us here. stories@aacfinc.org

Definitions

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder that is characterized by an inability to understand how to interact socially. Typical features of the syndrome also may include clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements, social impairment with extreme egocentricity, limited interests and unusual preoccupations, repetitive routines or rituals, speech and language peculiarities, and non-verbal communication problems. Update: A recent decision made by the American Psychiactric Association (APA) released a DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) placing the Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis back within the autism spectrum. This simply means people diagnosed with Asperger's are now just considered autistic. - MedicalNet.com

Rett's Syndrome

An X-linked dominant neurological disorder that affects girls only and is one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females. Girls with the syndrome show normal development during the first 6-18 months of life followed first by a period of stagnation and then by rapid regression in motor and language skills. The hallmark of Rett syndrome is the loss of purposeful hand use and its replacement with stereotyped hand-wringing. Screaming fits and inconsolable crying are common.

Other key features include loss of speech, behavior reminiscent of autism, panic-like attacks, bruxism (grinding of teeth), rigid gait, tremors, intermittent hyperventilation, and microcephaly (small head). Seizures occur in about half of cases. The girls typically survive into adulthood, but are at risk of sudden unexplained death. Rett syndrome is due to mutation in the MECP2 gene (methyl-CpG-binding protein-2) on chromosome Xq28. The vast majority of cases are sporadic and result from a new mutation in the girl with Rett syndrome or inheritance of the mutation from a parent who has somatic or germline mosaicism with the MECP2 mutation in only some of their cells. Atypical Rett syndrome with MECP2 mutations has been found in patients previously diagnosed with autism, mild learning disability, and mental retardation with spasticity or tremor. Males with a MECP2 mutation suffer severe encephalopathy (brain disease) and die before their first birthday. - MedicalNet.com

Pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS)

This category is used to refer to children who have significant problems with communication and play, and some difficulty interacting with others, but are too social to be considered autistic. - MedicalNet.com

Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD)

Children with this rare condition begin their development normally in all areas, physical and mental. At some point, usually between 2 and 10 years of age, a child with this illness loses many of the skills he or she has developed. In addition to the loss of social and language skills, a child with disintegrative disorder may lose control of other functions, including bowel and bladder control. - MedicalNet.com

Early Screening

The Autism Society of America™ put together some good information for when and why it's important for families to be concerned about early screening to determine whether your child is positively on the autism spectrum. We've provided the above link in an effort to avail you with the most complete information. Early screening can, in some cases, have some costs attached and AACF, Inc. is dedicated to providing enough financial relief to allow any needy family the ability to afford those important programs.

Diagnosis

There is no major mystery to diagnosing autism. Diagnosis is purely observational. The parent is the foremost observer and by default the best at determining whether or not their child has autism. All parents need to be armed with the facts about the symptoms of autism. - Autism Society of America™

Support

There is nothing worse than having to navigate something that seems foreign to you without some sort of roadmap. The Autism Support Network™ is just the place to not only find support, but, you will have access to many who are coping with autism as well as those who live life on the spectrum everyday. This information is both educational and reassuring. A positive optimistic outlook about autism can exponentially improve ones coping abilities. This is true with any coping or healing process. ASN™ can provide you with that support and other important information.

Fast Facts *(Updated)

  • 1 in 88 children are affected by autism spectrum disorder.
  • 1 in 54 boys are affected by autism spectrum disorder.
  • 1 in 252 girls are affected by autism spectrum disorder.
  • Autism currently affects over 1.5 million people in the U.S.
  • Autism is the third most common developmental disability following mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
  • Autism is more common than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis or childhood cancer.
  • Autism receives as little as 5% of the research funding as other less common diseases.
  • The annual per-person allocation for persons with autism is approximately $35. In contrast, multiple sclerosis receives roughly $158, diabetes $424, breast cancer $600, and AIDS $1,000. Currently there is no medical detection, treatment or cure for autism.

Facts provided by the CAN Foundation and Centers for Disease Control. 

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