Autism

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is autistic. 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that doctors begin screening babies for autism as early as 18 months. But doctors agree that there are very few behaviors or telltale autistic or Asperger's signs that babies exhibit at 18 months.

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Not Avonte Oquendo

A photo of a boy riding a NY subway train who was thought to be missing 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has been identified. NYPD officers located the boy in the photo and determined he was not the missing autistic child who vanished after he walked out of his Queens, NY high school on Oct. 4.

“It was not Avonte. This person whose photo it was was in the precinct with his parents," a police spokeswoman told the Daily News.

The photo, taken by an unidentified teenager on Tuesday, lifted hopes that Avonte was alive, but Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he was "not hopeful" Avonte was still alive. Kelly later apologized to Avonte's enraged family.

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Avonte Oquendo

New York City police are investigating whether a sighting of a young boy riding a NY subway train is a missing autistic teen.

A teenager riding an E or F train on Tuesday told police he believed he saw 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who went missing one month ago from his school in Queens, NY.

The teen said he approached the boy and asked him, “Hey, are you Avonte?” But the boy did not respond. The unidentified teen had the presence of mind to snap a photo of the boy before he got off the train.

When shown the photo of the boy on the train, Avonte's father said he wasn't sure if the boy was Avonte, who is unable to speak.

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Early diagnosis is essential for children with autism, but minority children tend to be diagnosed later than white children, according to an article on Huffingtonpost.com.

HuffPo quotes an expert on autism who says cultural differences can lead to delayed diagnosis of autism in black children.

"The biggest thing I want parents to know is we can do something about it to help your child," says Dr. Rebecca Landa, autism director at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute.

She gives examples of cultural differences, for instance, toddlers pointing before they talk is a key early sign of normal development. But pointing is considered rude in some cultures, and some black parents might miss that important sign due to cultural beliefs and superstitions.

And some new parents don't worry if their child is slow to start talking because other members of their family were slow to talk.

Singer Toni Braxton's 9-year-old son, Diezel (pictured above), was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

“I’m lucky,” said Braxton in an interview with OK magazine. “I try to tell most parents ‘don’t dismiss the signs.’ It’s OK. When you find out early, you can get them all the help they need."

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We've all seen the touching photos of Halle Berry's 3-year-old daughter Nahla caressing Halle's face or exploring the handsome features of her father, Gabe Aubry. We all assumed that Nahla was just a very affectionate little girl.

But as a loyal reader pointed out in an email to Sandrarose.com earlier this week, Nahla might be an autistic or special needs child who communicates nonverbally with her hands.

The list of famous celebrities with autistic children includes Toni Braxton, Holly Robinson Peete, Sylvester Stalone, John Travolta, Jenny McCarthy, Dan Marino, Dawn Neufeld ('Football Wives'), and more.

Signs of autism begin in babies before they are 12 months old. Most children are diagnosed with autism by age 2 or 3. That's the age when parents become aware that their toddlers' communications skills aren't keeping pace with other toddlers their age.

Autism is a disorder of the nerves in the brain that interferes with the signals sent from the brain to other parts of the body. The disorder is marked by poor communication skills and lack of social interaction. Doctors aren't sure what causes autism.

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