For Your Family: Autism Awareness

April 29,2 2013 (CHICAGO)

The numbers are alarming. It is estimated 1 in 50 children are born with autism. That is more than childhood cancer, pediatric AIDS and juvenile diabetes combined.

Part of the reason is doctors are getting better at diagnosing children, but it remains one of the most puzzling disorders and heart-wrenching for families.

A local college student talked about growing up with a twin sister with autism in a video she posted on YouTube:

"People always ask me what it's like to have a twin. What it's like to have an autistic sister," she said. "That's how it's always been."

"I remember attending elementary school and saying to my mom, 'I'd like to stay home when Erica can talk ... I wish that was how it worked," Thornton said in a speech at a fundraiser for autistic programs. Her words captivated the room.

Erica Thornton never did learn to speak like her other siblings. She remains in a program called Giant Steps. She turns age 22 in two years, and special education programs will end for her -- yet another challenge facing adults with autism.

But experts do believe there has been tremendous progress made in the treatment of autism.

"Just in the last few years, we've discovered 90 percent of autistic children can learn to speak by age 5, as long as we begin early intervention," said Dr. Robert Daniels.

Even that is controversial. There are many different treatment programs when it comes to autism, and there is a huge range even within those diagnoses.

What is known for sure, it affects more boys than girls. It happens during pregnancy and is a combination of genetic and enviornmental factors.

If you would like more informaton about autism, check out and .

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