Changes for Autism

Manny Vela has served on the state's Autism Council and on the Task Force for Children with Special Needs.

He has personal experience to qualify him for this type of work - his own 18-year-old son Manny Mac, was diagnosed at the age of 3 with a form of autism commonly known as Asberger's.

Vela said at that time, the services his family needed were not available in the Rio Grande Valley, and they had to travel to Houston.

However, he TMs glad much has changed in the way of diagnosing the disorder, over the past two decades.

"They are developing new techniques in regards to be able to diagnose children at a much earlier age, Vela said.

Researchers say that children should be diagnosed twice before the age of five, and right now they're being diagnosed after or at the age of five." According to national numbers, about one in every 110 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism.

Vela said the numbers don TMt indicate they TMll slow down, so the earlier people deal with it, the better it will be in creating functioning citizens out of those children diagnosed.

"Autism is not curable, but what you can do is in fact address those characteristics at the earliest stage possible by the age of three, Vela said.

Studies have shown that the outcomes are very positive."

While Vela likes the earlier start on the diagnosis, a change he doesn TMt think is moving in a positive direction is that the definition of what autism is defined as, could soon be refined.

That could mean that if the criteria changes, individuals with high-functioning forms of the disorder such as Asberger's might no longer have access to certain services.

"These are services starting at counseling services, speech therapy services, occupational therapy services, independent living services, psychiatric services - so services involving the most basic aspects of being able to lead and live an independent life."