Autism in kids rising, especially in boys |

Autism in kids rising, especially in boys

The biggest jump in special education students in recent years has been in autistic children, frequently boys.

Autistic children range from the “super-verbal to those who almost sit in a corner and never say a word for their whole life,” said Michael Johnson, who teaches autistic children and is stepfather to an autistic 10-year-old.

A mild emotional disability, autism is often diagnosed when a child doesn’t start talking at the usual age.

Johnson explained autism as “scrambled wires.”

“You and I have wires connected in our brain,” Johnson said. “When someone says something to us, we hear and respond. A child with autism has his wires scrambled. In some areas of his brain, his wires are crisscrossed and jumbled. There are some areas where the wires are not hooked in straight.”

This causes a big interference in communication, Johnson said. Some autistic children are overstimulated, and some are lethargic, he said.

The M.I.N.D. Institute at UC-Davis (734-9027) is studying why autism is occurring in greater numbers, said Susan Craig, Champion Mine Family Resource Center’s special education psychologist.

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neuro-developmental Disorders) Institute in Sacramento was founded in 1998 to study and treat autism, fragile X syndrome, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

More information about the institute is available at on the Web.

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