Social & Communication Deficits:
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Behavioral Health Services
The term "Spectrum" refers to the wide-range of symptoms and severity displayed by individuals diagnosed with Autism. No two individuals on the spectrum are alike. Each child with ASD is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior and level of severity — from low functioning to high functioning. Severity is based on social communication impairments, restrictive and repetitive nature of behaviors, along with how these impact the individuals overall level of functioning.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child's ability to communicate and interact
with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors,
interests and activities. These issues cause significant impairment
in social, occupational and other areas of functioning. ASD impacts
how a child perceives and socializes with others, causing problems
in crucial areas of development — Social Interaction,
Communication and Behavior.
Atypical Patterns of Behavior:
Social & Communication Deficits:
• Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
• Resists cuddling and holding and seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her own world
• Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
• Doesn't speak or has delayed speech, or may lose previous ability to say words or sentences
• Can't start a conversation or keep one going, or may only start conversations to make requests
or label items
• Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a sing-song voice or robot-like speech
• May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
• Doesn't appear to understand simple questions or directions
• Doesn't express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others' feelings
• Doesn't point at or bring objects to share interests with others
• Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
• Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping, or may perform
activities that could cause harm, such as head-banging
• Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
• Moves constantly
• May be uncooperative or resistant to change
• Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on
toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language
• May be fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn't
understand the "big picture" of the subject (i.e., how to use/play with the car)
• May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch, and yet oblivious to pain or extreme
• Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
• May become fixated on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
• May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or only eating foods of a
certain texture or color
Lack of Satey
Autism Spectrum Disorder has no single known cause. Given the
complexity of the disorder, and the fact that symptoms and severity
vary, there are probably many causes. Both Genetics and exposure
to environmental factors during pregnancy may play a role. Recent
research supports the hypothesis that the development of ASD
occurs "in utero" (in the womb) during prenatal brain development,
not during toddlerhood, as many had previously believed.
Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. For others, genetic changes may make a child more susceptible to autism spectrum disorder or create environmental risk factors. Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic problems seem to be inherited, while others happen spontaneously.
Researchers are currently exploring whether such factors as viral infections, complications during pregnancy or air pollutants play a role in triggering
autism spectrum disorder.
No link has been found between vaccines and the development of ASD:
One of the greatest controversies in autism spectrum disorder is centered on whether a link exists between ASD and certain childhood vaccines, particularly the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between ASD and the MMR vaccine. Avoiding childhood vaccinations can place your child in danger of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough, measles or mumps.
No Link to Vaccines:
Many programs address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with ASD. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Others focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or how to communicate better with others. Though children don't always outgrow ASD symptoms, they may learn to function well. For some children, early behavioral intervention using Applied Behavior Analysis to reduce behaviors of concern and teach replacement skills, such as functional communication, social skills, and initiation, has significantly reduced the symptoms of ASD such that, children have no longer met diganostic criteria for the outward symptoms of ASD.
Children with ASD often respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show good progress.
Parents and other family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
No medication can improve the core signs of ASD, but certain medications can help control symptoms. For example, antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems. Other medications may be prescribed if your child is hyperactive. However, medication should not be used in lieu of other empirically validated treatments. Due to the potential for psychotropic medications to cause adverse long-term effects in children, the decision to treat ASD symptoms with medication should be a thoughtful and coordinated decision between you and your physician, with input from your ASD treatment teams. Your child's physician should have the "whole picture" regarding your child's current symptoms, therapies, and progress. For example, if your child exhibits symptoms only with some people and only in some settings, it could indicate the symptoms may be best addressed behaviorally without the need for medication. However, if your child's symptoms are so severe (e.g., hyperactivity, significant physical aggression and/or self-injury), that they limit his/her ability to participate in therapy across people and settings, your physician may determine that medication is warranted.
No cure currently exists for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for ASD can be overwhelming.
The goal of treatment is to maximize your child's ability to function by reducing ASD symptoms and supporting development and learning. Your health care provider can help identify resources in your area. Treatment options may include:
Behavior and Communication Therapies:
Identifying your child's unique skill sets and helping your child make progress can be especially rewarding. However, the day-to-day care of a dependent child, particularly one with special needs, can be physically exhausting and emotionally overwhelming at times.
Given the unique challenges you may face, the following are just a few suggestions on how you can take care of yourself and your child:
You'll need to make important decisions about your child's education and treatment. A team, coordinated by your health care provider, may include social workers familiar with autism, teachers, and therapists who can help explain the resources in your area. Ask if the team includes a case manager or service coordinator who can help access financial services and government programs.
Caring for a child with ASD can put stress on your personal relationships and your family. To avoid burnout, take time out to relax, exercise or enjoy your favorite activities. Try to schedule one-on-one time with your other children and plan date nights with your spouse or partner — even if it's just watching a movie together after the children go to bed
Other families struggling with the challenges of ASD
often have useful advice. Most communities have
support groups for both parents and siblings of
children with ASD. Click on the "Parent Resources"
tab above for links to National Organizations with
local chapters in Orange and Los Angeles county.
There are many myths and misconceptions about ASD. Learning the truth can help you better understand your child's symptoms and behavior, as well as explain ASD to your family and friends, and to your child (if applicable). Learning more about ASD can help you better help your child, and reduce potential harm from trying "alternative treatments" that are not research- based interventions.
Your child may have visits, evaluations and meetings with many people involved in his or her care. Keep an organized file of these meetings and reports to help you decide about treatment options and monitor progress.
Researchers continue to explore new approaches to help children with ASD. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on autism spectrum disorders for helpful materials and links to resources.
Find a team of trusted professionals
Make time for yourself and other family members
Seek out other families of children with ASD.
Learn as much as you can about Autism.
Keep records of visits with service providers.
Click on the yellow "Parent Resources" tab at the very top right of this page for links to
National ASD Organizations offering valuable resources for families
Stay current on new technologies and therapies.
The majority of text content in this section can be found on the Mayo Clinic's website. The Mayo Clinic is ranked among the top 5 Medical Schools in the U.S.
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