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Published 15th September 2010, 2:3pm

The Ministry of Education, Training and Employment has partnered with The Wellness Centre to locally provide free developmental disabilities and autism awareness training for all pre-school teachers and public health nurses. Offered from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, the training sessions will start 23 September, in the George Town Library Conference Room. Thereafter they are scheduled for the first and third Thursday of each month, between October 2010 and March 2011. Training will focus on improving overall autism awareness and will give participants the necessary knowledge to recognise early warning signs. The referral process for children exhibiting autism-like symptoms will also be outlined. Noting that his ministry's focus on professionals who work with young children is a strategic one, Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, said," These individuals are the first point of contact for most children and the ministry believes that they can play important roles in shaping the community's response to autism. "The programme was developed because it came to my ministry's attention that we were unable to properly identify kids with autism spectrum disorders. As such we do not know the numbers with which we are dealing and cannot offer appropriate services such as speech and language, occupational, or behaviour modification services." Autism, the abbreviated name for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), is a group of developmental brain disorders that can cause significant social, behavioural and communication challenges. It affects each person differently, and can range from very mild to severe. However, persons with ASDs do share common symptoms such as problems with social interaction, repeat behaviours such as twirling fingers, flapping arms or wringing hands, and they may experience intense areas of interest. According to the US-based Centre for Disease Control, the prevalence of autism is estimated at one in 150. Research has found that early identification and intervention are key factors in helping to ensure the best possible outcome for children with ASD. Pre-school teachers and public health nurses are accordingly encouraged to call the Wellness Centre on 949-9355 or email info@wellnesscentre.ky for registration information. Early Warning Signs of Autism The following red flags may indicate children at risk for ASD. If you see these signs in children you know, act early to ensure a full developmental assessment is completed. A person with ASD might:

  • not respond to his/her name by 12 months of age;
  • not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane or fan blades) by 14 months;
  • not play "pretend" games (pretend to feed a doll) by 18 months;
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone;
  • have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own;
  • have delayed speech and language skills;
  • repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia);
  • give unrelated answers to questions;
  • get upset at minor changes;
  • have obsessive interests;
  • flap their hands, rock the body, or spin in circles; and
  • have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.
Source: The Wellness Centre and www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html.