Autism Prevalence, Challenges, and Supports: Understanding the Complexities of this Neurodevelopmental Disorder

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is estimated that 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2020 data reported by the CDC. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

Although autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2, most children are still being diagnosed after age 4. This highlights the importance of early intervention, which has been shown to improve learning, communication, and social skills, as well as underlying brain development. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and therapies based on its principles are the most researched and commonly used behavioral interventions for autism. Many children affected by autism also benefit from other interventions such as speech and occupational therapy.

While autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often. This delay in diagnosis can affect access to appropriate interventions and supports. Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness and understanding of autism in all communities to ensure timely diagnosis and access to services.

The causes of autism are not fully understood, but research indicates that genetics are involved in the vast majority of cases. Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism, and parents who have a child with ASD have a 2 to 18 percent chance of having a second child who is also affected. Studies have also shown that among identical twins, if one child has autism, the other will be affected about 36 to 95 percent of the time. In non-identical twins, if one child has autism, then the other is affected about 31 percent of the time.

Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism.

Autism can also be associated with a range of medical and mental health conditions. For instance, as many as one-third of people with autism have epilepsy, and more than half of children with autism have one or more chronic sleep problems. Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 11 to 40 percent of children and teens on the autism spectrum, and depression affects an estimated 7% of children and 26% of adults with autism.

Autism is also associated with challenges in daily function, such as developmental regression, where the child loses previously acquired skills, and wandering or bolting, which affects nearly half of those with autism. Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied, and nearly 28 percent of 8-year-olds with ASD have self-injurious behaviors such as head banging, arm biting, and skin scratching.

Caregivers and families of individuals with autism face significant challenges as well. On average, autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year through childhood, with the bulk of the costs in special services and lost wages related to increased demands on one or both parents. Mothers of children with ASD, who tend to serve as the child’s case manager and advocate, are less likely to work outside the home and earn significantly less than mothers of children with no health limitations or other disabilities.

In adulthood, many young adults with autism face significant challenges in finding employment and accessing healthcare transition services. More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. Furthermore, the cost of caring for Americans with autism had reached $268 billion in 2015 and would rise to $461 billion by 2025 in the absence of more-effective interventions and support across the life span.

In conclusion, autism is a significant public health concern that affects many individuals and families.

A New Year’s resolution list can help caregivers make positive changes.

We either love them or avoid them, but no matter what our stance on New Year’s resolutions, there is something incredibly refreshing about stepping into a whole new year, providing us with a clean slate and the chance to make any modifications we want to improve total well-being or to accomplish a brand new goal or dream.

For family caregivers, New Year’s resolution lists tend to be particularly significant, mainly because they affect not merely the caregivers themselves, but their senior loved ones. It’s important, however, to keep resolutions sensible. Resolving, for instance, to get a full eight hours of sleep each night, while caring for a family member who has problems with sundowning issues in Alzheimer’s, could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Try instead to think about one of the following resolutions especially developed with family caregivers in mind:

  1. I shall reach out for help and support, and take assistance when offered.
  2. I give myself permission to say “no” to requests to prevent dealing with more than I am able to handle.
  3. I will make my own health (both physical and mental) a priority, making sure that I set up and keep medical-related checkups and appointments.
  4. I will remind myself that self-care is not selfish, and that by taking good care of myself, I’m able to take better care of my loved one.
  5. I will take note of my energy level, and make a plan in order to avoid allowing myself to reach the point of exhaustion, burnout, or depression.


Starting with a no-cost in-home consultation, we will listen to the particular needs and challenges of your loved one, and develop a customized plan of care to fulfill those needs, through many different services such as:

  • Help with personal hygiene, dressing, ambulation and transfers
  • Running errands, such as buying groceries and picking up prescriptions
  • Accompanied transportation to medical appointments and enjoyable outings
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Meal planning and preparation, according to any prescribed dietary plans
  • Engagement in conversations, reminiscing, games, and exercise, along with other pastimes that are of interest to the older adult
  • And many others
Home Health Care in Braintree MA: Caregiver Tips

Five Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Discouraged

A big part of caregiving involves forging ahead, no matter how you’re feeling. But when your emotions and your moods start to flag, that can mean that you need to pay a little more attention to what’s happening to you in this process.


Home Health Care in Braintree MA: Caregiver Tips
Home Health Care in Braintree MA: Caregiver Tips


Journal and Explore Your Feelings

Ignoring your feelings doesn’t work, but that means you need another approach that helps you to work through what you’re feeling. Journaling is an excellent tool to do just that. When you write out what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling, it gives you a chance to sift through and really dig into what is happening in your mind. Over time, you can also look back and see the progress you’ve made.


Find Coping Mechanisms that Help You

Besides journaling, you’ve got other healthy coping mechanisms that you can try. Taking small breaks to meditate or to practice deep breathing can help. So can listening to positive motivational books or videos. In general, practicing solid self-care can help immensely. That means prioritizing good eating habits and getting enough sleep, for a start.


Get in Contact with People You Love

Often people start to feel discouraged when they’re not as connected with the people they care about as they would like to be. Reach out to friends or to family members and reestablish those lines of communication. Let them know how you’re feeling and let them help however they are able to do so.


Consider a Support Group

Friends and family aren’t your only answer, though. You might find that you want to talk to people who are well-versed in what it means to be a caregiver. That’s when you might start to look for caregiver support groups. You can learn a lot and share more of your own knowledge than you might have thought possible.


Take Respite Time

Too many caregivers ignore what respite time can really do for them. This is more than taking a few minutes away to catch your breath. Respite time is about being able to take longer breaks so that you can recharge and hopefully discover ways to help yourself to feel as well as you possibly can. By hiring home care providers and leaving them in charge, you ensure that your senior is in good hands, but that you’ve got the time you need.


Feeling discouraged, like most of the emotions you’ll process as a caregiver, is a sign that you can’t ignore. You need to figure out what you need and do what you can to make that happen.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring Home Health Care in Braintree, MA, call the caring staff at Rivers of Hope today at 508-857-0629. Providing Independent, Dependent, and Companion Care Services in Brockton, Boston, Braintree, Avon Randolph, Abington, and the surrounding areas.

Caregiver in Braintree MA: Warning Signs of Stroke

Warning Signs of a Stroke in Seniors

It is important to know the signs of a stroke, so your senior receiving elder care at home will have the best chance of recovery should they be stricken with one. Pay attention to visible signs as well as any suspicious reports from their caregivers, and know what to do if a stroke should occur.


Caregiver in Braintree MA: Warning Signs of Stroke
Caregiver in Braintree MA: Warning Signs of Stroke


What is a stroke?

When something changes how blood flows through the brain, it’s called a stroke, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and also leads to more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease.


There are two major types of stroke:

Ischemic- This is the most common type, which is caused by a blood clot or the narrowing of an artery that leads to the brain. Blockages for these kinds of strokes can be caused by the formation of a clot within a blood vessel of the brain or neck, movement of a clot from another area of the body, or the severe narrowing of an artery due to fatty deposits along the blood vessel walls.

Hemorrhagic- The second type of stroke occurs when a broken blood vessel causes bleeding in the brain, stopping oxygen and nutrients from reaching the brain cells.


Who is at risk?

Seniors are at higher risk of having a stroke. There are other factors, such as lifestyle and health that can also affect your risk for stroke.

Being obese, having an improper diet high in salt and saturated fats, substance or alcohol abuse, and smoking all increase your risk.

You are also at higher risk for having a stroke if you have high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, a family history of stroke, heart disease, certain circulation problems, or if you have previously had a stroke yourself.


What are the signs?

  • Numbness or weakness usually to one side of the body, including the face, arms, or legs
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Sudden confusion or inability to speak or to understand
  • Sudden loss of balance or trouble walking
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting
  • Problems with swallowing

Sometimes the symptoms a person experiences only last a few minutes before disappearing, which could be called a mini-stroke, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). If your senior receiving elder care at home describes signs or shows symptoms of a TIA, you need to get them medical help immediately. A TIA can be a precursor to a larger, more deadly stroke just hours or days away in some cases.

Some people make a full recovery soon after a stroke, while others take months or even years to recover. The part of the brain that is damaged as a result of the stroke determines how it affects the person afterward. Occupational and physical therapy, which can be added to your senior’s elder care routine at home, as well as certain medications,  are all options for treatment after a stroke has affected your loved one.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring a Caregiver in Braintree, MA, call the caring staff at Rivers of Hope today at 508-857-0629. Providing Independent, Dependent, and Companion Care Services in Brockton, Boston, Braintree, Avon Randolph, Abington, and the surrounding areas.