There are many difficulties in life that aren’t easy to pinpoint and diagnose.
One of those is Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is characterized by a wide range of conditions, including challenges in verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive speech, weak social skills, as well as unique strengths such as attention to detail and excellent skills in a particular area.
Autism and pervasive developmental disorders are also often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and attention issues.
Science has a long way to go in discovering the root causes of Autism, but research is linking environmental and genetic influences, with signs appearing as early as 18 months up to 2 or 3 years of age.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
- Avoiding eye contact
- Struggling to understand other people’s feelings
- Remaining nonverbal or delayed language development
- Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Getting upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Having highly restricted interests
- Performing repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking, or spinning
- Reacting unusually and often intensely to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
DSM-V DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
- Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.
- Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
- Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for – example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
- Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
Severity of the disorder is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
- Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
- Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
- These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay.
- Intellectual disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.
AUTISM – EARLY INTERVENTION AND TREATMENT
If you are a parent and notice developmental delays or believe your child may have Autism, it’s extremely important to intervene early and talk to your doctor to improve outcomes.
You can start helping your child immediately—you don’t need to wait for a full diagnosis to help them with their challenges.
Another option is to look into your state’s Early Intervention Programs and contact your school district’s Special Education Office for free supportive services such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Therapy is also a valuable resource for you, and there are various types to consider.
To start, emotional support through psychotherapy can help both you and your child process the obstacles at hand.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is also known to be an effective form of therapy for children with Autism because it helps them understand their behavior and how it’s affected by their environment.
Additionally, speech and language therapy, as well as Occupational Therapy (OT) have also been successful in bringing about meaningful change to the patient’s life.
AUTISM SUPPORT FOR PARENTS AND FAMILY
When a child is diagnosed with Autism, it changes the family structure in so many ways.
That’s why it’s crucial to address the changing family dynamic and provide resources to all people involved.
Parents need all the support they can get during the stressful period of diagnosis, which is why we teach effective behavior management skills, and how to navigate the school’s special education system.
The child or adolescent, or adult with ASD, can benefit from coping skills, social skills, strategies to reduce symptoms, and overall support.
There are many more resources today to support families, but it can also be daunting with the amount of therapeutic options.
Our role is to guide you through this whole new world and provide you with a sense of hope for a stable and successful future.
Family therapy can be a helpful way to address and heal the family dynamics that arise as a result of a diagnosis and to address how parenting skills can help improve a child’s functioning.
Family or couples therapy can also explore how an autism diagnosis may affect the parent’s relationship and create a solid foundation for a relationship amidst the difficulties and stressors that come with parenting a child with autism.
WANT TO TALK? SPEAK WITH AN AUTISM EXPERT NOW
If you have any questions, contact one of our autism specialists for a free consultation any time.