April Is Awareness Month for Autism Spectrum Disorder
April is designated as National Autism Awareness Month, and April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. These observances are intended to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 88 children in the United States have ASD, and the diagnosis is far more common among boys than girls. Despite autism being so common, many people do not know exactly what autism is.
According to the CDC, ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that cause social, communication and behavioral challenges. “Spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment that those diagnosed with ASDs can have. The National Institute of Mental Health lists five autistic spectrum disorders: autistic disorder (classic autism), Asperger’s disorder (Asperger syndrome), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s disorder (Rett syndrome) and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD).
Research has yet to pinpoint the cause of ASDs, but studies suggest that both genes and environment are likely contributing factors.
Genes. Although family history does not seem to affect or predict an ASD diagnosis, once one sibling is diagnosed with an ASD, other siblings have 35 times the usual risk of also developing an ASD.
Environment. The environment includes anything surrounding your body that can affect your health, including water, air, food, medications and other materials you may come in contact with. Environmental influences on ASDs are still being researched, but various factors may each play a small role in ASD development.
There has been some concern that childhood vaccines cause ASDs. Although there may be other unknown causes of ASDs, the CDC states that there is no causal relationship between childhood vaccines and ASDs. Several regulatory bodies, including the CDC, continue to monitor vaccines for safety and effectiveness.
Early detection and diagnosis of an ASD is essential for providing the most effective treatment. Make sure an ASD screening is part of your child’s wellness checkups.
“Be Healthy” is the sixth of the Six Simple Rules for a Better Life. In most places, including here, most “be healthy” attention is paid to eating well and exercising. Another topic I always cover in speaking engagements is “knowing your numbers.”
The numbers referred to are those such as cholesterol and blood pressure, which are among the indicators of good (or ill) health. If you know your numbers, you will be able to address issues needing attention.
If you have health insurance, routine annual physicals, including the tests to determine your numbers, are included at no cost to you. There is no good excuse for not knowing your numbers!
I’m 51 years old, and once you turn 50, a colonoscopy is prescribed every five years. I had mine last week.
The idea of a colonoscopy tends to cause fear. As result, people avoid the procedure, which can be a horrible mistake. Colon cancer caught early is highly treatable, and when left unchecked, deadly.
Budget Tools: Make It Easy
If you don’t enjoy crunching numbers and sticking to budgets, there are a variety of budgeting tools available that can help make budgeting—and improving financial health—easy, and maybe even fun.
Apps – Easy and convenient, an app on your mobile device can help you track your budgeting and savings goals. Many different apps are available—for example, Mint (www.mint.com) tracks expenses according to category, and Check (https://check.me) helps you meet bills’ due dates.
Online calculators – Basic online budget calculators can help you see where your money goes. You can spend a few minutes entering numbers into budget categories to give yourself a good overview of your finances. Simply search online for “budget calculator” to find a calculator that works for you.
Automatic transfers – The easiest way to increase your savings is to make it automatic and painless. Simply set up an automatic deposit to a savings account and then check in from time to time to see how a little bit each month can add up to great savings.
Whether you choose an app, online calculator or automatic transfer, budgeting doesn’t have to be painful.
Rescue Old Produce
The bananas on the counter have turned brown, the apples are no longer crisp and the tomatoes have definitely seen better days. You might be tempted to just throw old, shriveled fruits and vegetables in the trash or compost bin, but pause before you do. Even when they’re past their prime, many fruits and veggies can still be put to nutritious use. In some cases, older fruit and veggies might even be better. For these delicious dishes, you won’t need any tools that you don’t already have sitting in your kitchen.
Applesauce – Applesauce is made by cooking chopped apples in a small amount of water on the stovetop. Simmer and mash apples with a potato masher until they reach desired chunkiness. You can add strawberries, pears or other fruits for different flavors, as well as cinnamon or a splash of vanilla.
Breads – Bananas, apples and zucchini are just a few of the fruits and vegetables that can be incorporated into bread or cake recipes. Grate or mash and add to a more traditional recipe, or search for a recipe that is built around a particular fruit. Shredded apple and zucchini are also great pancake additions.
Pies – Traditionally, pies can be made with any type of filling inside a pastry. Use a pre-made or homemade crust and mix together a fruit filling with those soft apples, berries or other fruits. Check out a cookbook for more ideas.
Smoothies – For a cold, nutritious treat, blend a variety of fruits and vegetables into smithereens. Any type of fruit or vegetable can be thrown into the blender and churned into a cold treat. Alter the ratio of different fruits, and try adding milk, yogurt, ice, vanilla or honey to change up the flavors.
National Park Week
Are you bored with getting your exercise by strolling around the neighborhood or running at the local gym? The U.S. National Park Services has preserved vast pieces of American land that are the perfect places to get outside and be active, whether it’s the majestic Yellowstone National Park in the West or the lesser-known Big Bend National Park in Texas with its hundreds of bird species.
The opening weekend of National Park Week is April 19-20, and both days are get-in-free days. Visit www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm to find a park near you or to plan a trip. With great scenery and many options, you can choose a park where you can enjoy a quiet stroll, a vigorous hike, a bike ride, or a horse ride. You can also find spots to go rock climbing and swimming.
With more than 400 spots around the nation, the national parks are some of the best pieces of American nature and history. What better way to get your family outside and moving in the spring air than by visiting a national park?
This flavorful dish takes advantage of seasonal tomatoes and healthy fish. Whether you buy fillets at the store or reel ‘em in on a line, here’s a great recipe to celebrate spring.
- 2 lbs. trout fillets (or other fish, cut into six pieces)
- 3 tbsp. lime juice (or about 2 limes)
- 1 tomato (medium, chopped)
- 1⁄2 onion (medium, chopped)
- 3 tbsp. cilantro (chopped)
- 1⁄2 tsp. olive oil
- 1⁄4 tsp. black pepper
- 1⁄4 tsp. salt
- 1⁄4 tsp. red pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse fish and pat dry. Place in baking dish. In a separate dish, mix remaining ingredients together and pour over fish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until fork-tender.
Yield: 6 servings. Each serving provides 300 calories, 13g of fat, 110mg of cholesterol, 200mg of sodium and 1g of fiber.