Autism diagnosis rate growing among Valley kids

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.

Those who work with autistic children believe more awareness is needed to help recognize the signs of this disorder.

Health experts say for years autism went undetected and now more and more children are diagnosed each year.

According the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in every 88 children have autism in the U.S.

"The life that they live, we couldn't even imagine," said Terri McGinnis, Region One Education Center Specialist.

Autism is a developmental disorder affecting the brain.

Until recent years it was an obstacle that for the most part went undetected but through increased awareness, times have changed.

"His first year I just noticed he was very unresponsive to me. He didn't have any language whatsoever, didn't want to imitate. That's when I knew I needed to get early intervention," said Vanessa Korran, mother of an autistic child.

According to the Region One Education Center, 19 years ago a survey went out to all Rio Grande Valley Schools.

Only 21 cases of Autism were reported back then.

That number is now more than 2,000.

"We've got kids that don't sleep on a regular schedule. They have eating difficulties. They have odd behaviors because of the way that their brain is wired and because of the way they process the world and information," said McGinnis

McGinnis said children with autism react and interact differently than others because they simply see things different.

Here is what parents should look for:

No babbling, pointing, reaching, or waving by 12 months.

No words by 16 months and any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills.

"We've got the classic autism, we've got aspersers syndrome and those are the two you find in public schools and those are the two I do a lot of training on because we've got the kids out there," said McGinnis.

She trains teachers from Brownsville to Laredo how to see the signs and work effectively with autistic students.

"You're basically their voice and you have to speak out for them," said Korran.

"There might not be a cure for autism right now but there's still hope," said McGinnis.

Monday, Region One asked the Valley to "light it up blue" by wearing blue in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day.