ABOUT AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Autism is characterized by a wide range of conditions, including challenges in verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive speech, social skills, as well as unique strengths such as attention to detail and excellent skill in a particular area. Research states it may be caused by environmental or genetic influences, with signs appearing as early as 18 months up to 2 or 3 years of age.
Some red flags may include:
- Avoiding eye contact and prefers to be alone
- Struggling to understand other people’s feelings
- Remaining nonverbal or has delayed language development
- Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Getting upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Has highly restricted interests
- Performing repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking or spinning
- Has unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
If you are a parent and notice developmental delays or believe your child may have Autism, it is 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 developmental delays or learning challenges. You can look into your state’s Early Intervention program or your school district’s Special Education office for free or supportive services such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP). You can also ask for referrals for medical and behavioral evaluations and therapies. Emotional support through psychotherapy can help you as a parent and your child. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is known to be an effective form of behavioral therapy for children with Autism. It helps us understand behavior and how the environment affects it. Many techniques are used to increase useful behaviors and reduce those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. These techniques and principles bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.
Additionally, it is important to address to impact on the family as a whole. When a child is diagnosed with Autism, it changes the family structure in a myriad of ways. From a therapeutic perspective, it is imperative to address the changing family dynamic, how to provide resources to all family members involved, and work toward a new vision filled with optimism and hope.