April is World Autism Awareness Month

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Every year the month of April is set aside as World Autism Awareness Month. The event was created as a way to raise awareness of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and promote acceptance of children and adults living with the condition.

ASD refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges in social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an ASD. While ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, boys are diagnosed more often than girls.

“Appropriately diagnosing children with autism is necessary in order for them to receive the services and supports they need to reach their full potential,” said Dr. Kendra Lystad, Pediatrician at Legacy Community Health. “Early diagnosis of autism is essential, as research has shown that starting interventions early improves long-term outcomes.”

The CDC developed the “Learn the Signs. Act Early” Program to help families monitor their child’s overall development, which can help in recognizing the early signs of ASD. Some of which include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Delayed speech and communication skills
  • Being upset by relatively minor changes
  • Unexpected reactions to sounds, tastes, sights, touch and smells
  • Focusing on a narrow range of interests or objects
  • Engaging in repetitive behavior such as flapping hands or rocking

Legacy is committed to helping families of children with autism. Physicians like Lystad evaluate for signs of ASD and refer patients for additional testing and behavioral health related therapies if needed

“I am a pediatrician with a focus on development, more specifically—autism. I make sure my patients are getting the appropriate therapies and services, both in school and in the community,” said Lystad. “I rely heavily on Legacy’s social services team to help bridge that gap for families and make sure they have the information they need to get started with services.”

An important component of those services is support group meetings, which are available in both English and Spanish at Legacy to help parents cope with the stress and demands related to having a child with autism.

Legacy’s Spanish language support group for parents of children with autism was one of the first of its kind in the Houston area. The group meets the first and third Tuesdays of most months from 5pm-6pm. Meetings previously held at Legacy’s Southwest Clinic are currently held via Zoom.

To learn more about how Legacy can support children with autism, as well as their families, contact your Legacy pediatrician or health care provider. You can make an appointment by calling 832-548-5000 or by visiting our website.