In April, the Focus is on Autism: Here’s What You Need to Know

April is Autism Awareness Month which is kicked off by the observance of the 12th annual World Autism Awareness Day happening on April 2nd.

It may shock you to learn that about 1 in 59 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

“That figure is so much higher than it used to be,” says Shannon Doughty, owner and clinical director of Carolina Coast Behavioral Services, LLC, in Charleston.

Over the last 12 years, the prevalence of autism increased 289.5 percent, according to the CDC. Scientists do not attribute the increase to vaccinations despite contentions among some of a relationship between the two. In fact, the increase is largely attributable to growing awareness of the condition and changes to its diagnostic criteria.

In any case, there is help available for families.

As the needs of autistic children are better understood, lawmakers are responding with regulation aimed at serving this growing population. In 2007, South Carolina passed Ryan’s Law, which mandates insurance coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, for children up to age 16 who are in private, group insurance plans. ABA is a behavioral therapy treatment designed to encourage behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that inhibit learning or are otherwise harmful.

Other sources of funding for services include Medicaid, Babynet designed to assist children under 3 years old, and special rates for private pay. Families should never consider their financial situation or cost of care to be a roadblock for pursuing treatment.

"Parents need to be advocates for their children and need not to wait for a diagnosis before reaching out to us,” says Doughty, a board-certified behavior analyst. “We have navigated this many times before and can be a tremendous resource for parents in the Lowcountry struggling through it."

Carolina Coast Behavioral Services, LLC, offers a variety of programs for children, adolescents and families that boost social, language, cognitive, motor and related skills. “Early intervention is the key when it comes to treating autism,” Doughty says.

In young children, researchers have examined the role of play in facilitating language and cognition, as an intervention, and as an assessment tool. ABA helps youngsters with playing and social skills, but it can be helpful across the severity of the spectrum and throughout the life span. Treatment goals are identified for each client based on their individual needs, including everything from social skills and language to self-care such as personal hygiene.

If you have a loved one with autism or a related disability who could benefit from professional ABA services, reach out to Carolina Coast Behavioral Services today. Call them at 843-259-8853, or visit them online at