CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Arizona students joined autism organizations around the world to celebrate the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.
The students from Pieceful Solutions gathered at the Chandler campus Wednesday morning to do their part to raise autism awareness, with a little help from Bruce Haffner in the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper.
Decked out in blue, the cheering kids came together to form a big ribbon for autism awareness, happily waving to Haffner as he flew over.
Just last week, the government revised its estimation of how many U.S. children will be diagnosed with autism to 1 in 68.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest estimate Thursday. The Atlanta-based agency said its calculation means autism affects roughly 1.2 million Americans under 21. Two years ago, the CDC put the estimate at 1 in 88 children, or about 1 million.
The cause or causes of autism are still not known. Without any blood test or other medical tests for autism, diagnosis is not an exact science. It's identified by making judgments about a child's behavior.
Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it affects people differently.
Signs of autism can include slow language development, inability to connect words and their meanings, reluctance to interact socially, lack of response to basic social cues like eye contact and smiles, tendencies to throw tantrums for no obvious reason, potentially aggressive behavior, repetitive hand movements and unusual ways of relating to people or things.
(Click here for a diagnostic checklist from the Autism Research Institute - six-page PDF file)
Experts say a diagnosis can now be made at age 2 or even earlier. But the new report said the majority of children continue to be diagnosed after they turn 4.
"We know the earlier a child is identified and connected with services, the better," said Coleen Boyle, the CDC official overseeing research into children's developmental disabilities.
"Early diagnosis of ASD leads to early intervention," according to The Autism Society of America. "If children are diagnosed by age 3, they are more likely to work and live on their own as independent adults."
Enter Pieceful Solutions
Connecting those kids with the services they need is why Pieceful Solutions exists.
With campuses in Chandler and Mesa, Pieceful Solutions is a K-12 school designed specifically to meet the needs of children with autism spectrum disorders. Created by Kami Cothrun, M. Ed. in 2008, it's the first school of its kind in Arizona.
"Pieceful Solutions respects the individuality of every child and uses each child's strengths to build self-confidence and create success with an individual program," reads the school's website.
- Chandler campus -- 550 W. Warner Road
- Mesa campus -- 4909 E. Brown Road
- Pieceful Solutions on Facebook
National Autism Month
April is National Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society has celebrated National Austin Month since the '70s.
As part of National Autism Awareness Month, the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix is hosting its annual Bowling for Autism event on Sunday, April 6, 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., at Brunswick Via Linda Lanes in Scottsdale.
All of the money raised at the event stays local, benefiting families and individuals here in Arizona. Donations are tax deductible.
Formed more than 30 years ago to provide information, tools and support to Arizonans living with autism, every person on the organization's board is the parent of a child on the spectrum. They have first-hand experience in the unique journey that is raising an autistic child.