Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.
The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder may be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but they usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years).
A developmental screening may lists five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:
- Does not babble or coo by 12 months
- Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
- Does not say single words by 16 months
- Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
- Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age
Any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has autism. But because the disorder’s symptoms vary so widely, a child showing these behaviors should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team.
Symptoms in young children may also include:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.
There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems. Researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.
Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU).
While there is no known cure for autism, there are treatment and education approaches that can address some of the challenges associated with the condition. Intervention can help to lessen disruptive behaviors, and education can teach self-help skills for greater independence. But just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies people with autism, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum.
Individuals can use the positive aspects of their condition to their benefit, but treatment must begin as early as possible and focus on the individual’s unique strengths, weaknesses and needs.
Each child responds to treatment differently, we cannot endorse any one treatment or program. Families should educate themselves about all options and choose what they feel is in the best interest of their child and family, based on their experience and what resources are available.
It is important to match a child’s potential and specific needs with treatments or strategies that are likely to help him/her reach established goals and greatest potential.
All treatment approaches are not equal – what works for one will not work for all. The basis a treatment plan should come from a thorough evaluation of the child’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are many different types of treatments available generally for children with ASD.
The different types of treatments can generally be broken down into the following categories:
Behavior and Communication Approaches, like; speech & Language Therapy, ABA, PICS, Occupational therapy , Medication, Complementary and Alternative Medicine
At LWHCC, we will provide you with free triage service with a professional who will carry on a brief assessment, either over the phone or during a face-to-face interview, and guide you to the appropriate service based on the findings and individual needs.
In terms of psychological assessment and therapy, we offer professional assessment and diagnosis of ASD, and we work with ASD comorbid mental health issues, for example: Anxiety and behavioral difficulties.
Help engage the child in therapeutic and educational programs that has the following qualities:
- The child should receive structured, therapeutic activities to support the child meet developmental milestones.
- The therapy is guided by specific and well-defined learning objectives, and the child’s progress in meeting these objectives is regularly evaluated and recorded.
- The intervention focuses on the core areas affected by autism. These include social skills, language and communication, imitation, play skills, daily living and motor skills.
- The program actively engages parents in the intervention, both in decision making and the delivery of treatment.
- The therapists make clear their respect for the unique needs, values and perspectives of the child and his or her family.
- The program involves a multidisciplinary team that includes, as needed, a physician, speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist.
And at home you can implement the following tips:
Symptoms in young children may also include:
- Focus on the positive.
- Be consistent and follow structured routine with room for flexibility.
- Change takes time, so give it time.
- Make time to connect with your child through play, or joined activities that the child enjoys.
- Involve the child in everyday activities.
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