Autism Spectrum Disorder
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?ASD is a neurodevelopmental disability that can significantly impact social, communication, and behavioral functioning. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a term for the broad spectrum that includes individuals of differing levels of functioning.ASD includes varying levels of social and communication development of low-functioning to high-functioning. The ASD range covers individuals who are completely non-verbal to individuals who communicate regularly. The spectrum also describes the individual's ability to learn, read social cues, and have general awareness of themselves. ASD now includes diagnoses that were previously diagnosed separately: Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger Syndrome.Research shows that early intervention can positively impact development of skills needed to manage challenges. Most children develop differently and exhibit progress in development in number of ways. However, research shows that if specific developmental milestones are not met within a certain timeframe, this may indicate future problems and/or potential need for intervention.
Potential signs of ASD for infants/toddlers might include:
- No speech or efforts to talk/babble by 12 months
- No use of non-verbal communication methods by 12 months
- No use of individual and simple words by 16 months
- No using phrases of two-words by 24 months
- Non-responsive to when his or her name is called
- No pretend play
- Eye contact avoidance and preference for being alone
- Not exhibiting interest in other children (watching, following, etc.)
Potential signs of ASD for kids/young adults may include:
- Social and communication difficulties
- Sensory sensitivities
- Executive functioning challenges (planning, organizing, self-monitoring, inhibiting, working memory, etc.)
- Emotion regulation challenges
- Difficulty with understanding non-verbal communication and social cues
- Reduced or no eye-contact
- Resistance to change from their norm
- Difficulty in communicating needs
- Excessive solitude
- Excessive attachment to specific toys or objects
- Restricted and excessive interest in a very specific category
- Reduced benefit from standard teaching practices
Dr. Sam meets with the parents of the individual (if a minor) or the individual and/or caretakers and partners for an initial intake meeting to discuss developmental history, family history, environments, relationships, behaviors, concerns, and goals. Dr. Sam administers surveys to parents/guardians, teachers, caretakers, and the individual (adult) to assess behaviors, adaptive functioning, and executive functioning.
With the proper authorization from parents/guardians, caretakers, and/or the individual, Dr. Sam speaks with teachers and other providers who work or who have worked with the individual to better understand and gather data regarding the individual's functioning across environments. Dr. Sam then meets with the individual using a semi-structured assessment to evaluate social, communication, and emotional functioning and skills through direct interaction, play, conversation, and activities.
Sam utilizes the gathered information to determine if the individual meets criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Sam has a feedback meeting with parents/guardians (if a minor) or the individual and caretakers to discuss Dr. Sam's findings and specific recommendations for possible treatment and moving forward. Sam writes up a report with the findings, interpretation of results, and recommendations and provides them to the families.
Treatment for ASD begins with an intake session with the individual's parents/guardians (if a minor) or the individual (if an adult) to better understand the individual's strengths, challenges and goals for treatment. Sam formulates a plan for treatment and associated goals. These plans are shared with the individual's parents/guardians (if a minor) or the individual and caretakers (if applicable). Treatment sessions take place as frequently as recommended by Dr. Sam, and includes status reports based on the original goals set. Parent sessions (if applicable) also improves the success of treatment. This is where Dr. Sam provides caretakers specific tactics to deploy at home to reinforce the learnings from sessions.
- Current research shows that a mix of genetic predisposition and the individual's environment are linked to ASD.
- There is currently no substantial evidence that indicates specific details and causes of ASD.
How Prevalent is ASD?
- ASD diagnosis is currently increasing in numbers over the years.
- The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates about 1 in 68 children have ASD.