What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological disorder known simply as autism.
Specifically, it is a variable developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication, and by abnormal behavior patterns (i.e. repetition of specific movements or a tendency to focus on certain objects). While autism is evident in the first few years of a child’s life, symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe and the cause is still unknown.
Autism Facts from the CDC:
- Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 children in the United States
- Boys are five times more likely to be affected by autism than girls (approximately one in 42 boys)
- Autism can occur equally in all racial, ethnic, and social groups
- Siblings of a child with autism have a 2%–18% chance of also having autism
- According to research, a diagnosis of autism at age two can be reliable, valid, and stable
We at ACN think all children with autism have special abilities and we want to help maximize their potential!
For more in-depth information about autism spectrum disorder and how to maximize the potential of children with autism, check out our Family Empowerment Classes.
How is Autism Diagnosed?
It is important to note there is no single test for autism. An autism diagnosis is based on clinical observations and testing using one or more standardized tests.
Some of the screenings and tests which may be used in the diagnostic process are: CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), Autism Diagnostic Checklist Form E-2, CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), Pervasive Developmental Screening Test -2, ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale), and ADI-R (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised). In addition, parental interview and medical history are taken into consideration.
The professionals most likely to diagnose autism are psychologists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and speech-language pathologists. For more information on our interdisciplinary diagnostic process, click here.
How Do I Know if My Child has Autism?
While only a trained professional can give a proper diagnosis if your child has autism, there are a few signs that you and your pediatrician should watch for that might warrant further investigation.
Possible Indicators of Autism:
- 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 combine two words on his/her own by 24 months
- Does not respond to her or his name
- Has any loss of language or social skills at any age
- Does not seem to know how to play with toys
- Excessively lines up toys or other objects
- Is attracted to one particular type of toy
- Does not smile
- At times seems hearing impaired
When observing your child, ask yourself: Does your child look at you when s/he wants to show you something? Does s/he look when you point to something? Does your child use imagination and pretend play? A lack of these three behaviors may also warrant further investigation and an evaluation by a qualified autism provider.
If your child shows some of the warning signs or you believe your child has autism, talk with your pediatrician or contact Autism Community Network at (210) 435-1000.
Treatments for Autism
While there is no known cure for autism, there are treatment and education approaches that may reduce some of the challenges associated with the condition. Treatments for autism or interventions—especially early in a child’s life—may help lessen disruptive behaviors and education can teach self-help skills that allow for greater independence.
But, just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies all individuals with ASD, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum. Depending on your child’s needs, he or she may benefit from speech therapy, occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, or applied behavior analysis.
Most professionals do agree that early intervention is important and that most individuals with autism respond well to highly structured, specialized programs. An effective treatment program for a child or adult with autism will build on their interests, offer a predictable schedule, teach tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engage attention in highly structured activities, and provide regular reinforcement of behavior. Parental involvement has also emerged as a major factor in treatment success.
To help maximize the potential of your child with autism or other related disabilities, Autism Community Network offers Hands-on Trainings for parents or caregivers and their child to supplement therapy.