Autism Spectrum Disorders
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an average of 1 in every 110 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Autism Spectrum Disorders, also called Pervasive Development Disorders, are a group of disorders with similar features. Included in this spectrum of disorders are:
- Autistic disorder (Autism)
- Asperger’s Disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) present with deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors or interests, and may present with unusual responses to sensory experiences. Since these disorders are usually diagnosed early in a child’s development, they are referred to as developmental disorders. Some children have severe deficits in these areas and some have mild deficits. Autism treatments vary depending on where a child lands on the spectrum.
Autism’s Associated disorders
Autism symptoms can usually be detected within 18-months of birth. These symptoms include delays in one or more of the following three areas:
Impairment in Communication
- Verbal communication: delay in or lack of development of spoken language; inability to initiate or sustain conversation; repetitive use of language
- Con-verbal communication: poor eye contact, lack of relational communication such as smiling or gestures that promote communication
Impairment in Social Interaction
- Failure to develop age appropriate peer relationships
- Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- Inability to hold a conversation
Limited Interest in Activities or Play
- Lack of spontaneous play with others and preference for solitary play
- Unusual focus on the parts of a toy rather than the whole toy
ROUTINES OR REPETITIVE BEHAVIORS (STEREOTYPED BEHAVIORS):
Repeating words or actions, inflexible adherence to routines or behaviors, preoccupation with objects or parts of objects, repetitive mannerisms (e.g., finger or hand flapping or twisting).
Asperger’s Disorder is similar to Autism in that there are often social delays as well as repetitive and restricted patterns of behavior; however, children who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder do not demonstrate language delays and often have average to above average intelligence.
CHILDHOOD DISINTEGRATIVE DISORDER (CDD):
CDD is a condition similar to autism but appears after a period of normal development, usually around the age of 3 or 4-years old. Typically, in children who are diagnosed with CDD, language, engagement and interest in social environment, and self care abilities are dramatically diminished or lost after a period of normal development. Following the dramatic loss of skills, children diagnosed with CDD resemble children with autism.
PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENT DISORDER, NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED (PDDNOS):
Children diagnosed with PDD, NOS display significant problems with communication, play and some deficits in social interaction. However, their ability to engage with their environment and socialize is often not severe enough for a diagnosis of autism.
Early intervention is imperative for prognosis of all of these developmental disorders. The earlier autism treatments may begin, the better.
Symptoms of Autism
If your toddler shows any of the following signs, we recommend you contact Equilibria to schedule an evaluation:
AUTISM SYMPTOMS SHOWING BY 6 MONTHS
A lack of eye contact (e.g., does not gaze at parent when feeding); a lack of broad smiles or other joyful expressions
AUTISM SYMPTOMS SHOWING BY 9 MONTHS
No “conversational” back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions
AUTISM SYMPTOMS SHOWING BY 12 MONTHS
A lack of response to name (e.g., doesn’t turn or look up when name is called); No babbling or baby talk; No communicative gestures (e.g., pointing, showing, reaching, or waving)
AUTISM SYMPTOMS SHOWING BY 16 MONTHS
No single words
AUTISM SYMPTOMS SHOWING BY 24 MONTHS
No two-word meaningful phrases (not simply imitating or repeating what the child heard), e.g., ‘more milk,’ ‘Mommy up,’ ‘want book’
In addition, any regression or loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age are symptoms of autism.
Causes of Autism
While there is no one single cause of Autism, there is an overall understanding that Autism is caused by an abnormality in brain functioning. Researchers are looking at a variety of causes including genetics, heredity, and medical problems.
Commonality of Autism
According to The Autism Society, 1 percent of the population of children in the U.S., ages 3-17, has an autism spectrum disorder.
Diagnosis of Autism
Our practice values a multidisciplinary approach towards diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders.
AUTISM TREATMENT TEAM
Depending on your child’s presentation, the psychologist will facilitate the development of an autism treatment team of outside specialists, which may include one or more of the following:
- A neurodevelopmental pediatrician
- A pediatric neurologist
- A speech therapist
- An occupational therapist
- A physical therapist
- Other educational professionals
Despite the fact that children can be reliably diagnosed with ASD as early as 2 years of age, the average age at which children are diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder is 4 ½ years. These children will have missed out on years of critical early intervention services, known to improve outcomes for children with autistic spectrum disorder.
The sooner you have a diagnosis, the sooner you can begin autism treatments to obtain the help your child needs.
At Equilibria a child psychologist specializing in autistic spectrum disorders will assess your child using an appropriate combination of the following:
The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) to gather:
- The child’s history, including family, education, previous diagnoses, and medications
- Overview of the child’s behavior
- Early development and developmental milestones
- Language acquisition and loss of language or other skills
- Current functioning in regard to language and communication
- Social development and play
- Interests and behaviors
- Clinically relevant behaviors, such as aggression, self-injury, and possible epileptic features
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
A play-based, interactive assessment tool, which consists of semi-structured activities that allow the psychologist to observe social and communication behaviors related to the diagnosis of ASD.
A test of cognitive ability to determine your child’s level of cognitive functioning (this can be done with both verbal and non-verbal children)
Developmental Behavior Assessment
An assessment of developmentally appropriate behaviors, maladaptive behaviors and adaptive functioning
- (For school-age children) an instrument assessing current academic levels
- (For school-age children) an observation in a classroom environment
Autism Treatment Team Observation Reports
Incorporation of reports/data from relevant team members
FOLLOWING AUTISM ASSESMENT
Equilibria’s child psychologist will meet with family members to share the report and convey the results in plain language. The report will contain detailed recommendations and resources, ensuring the following:
- Your family understands the diagnosis and the degree of severity of the disorder
- Your family has concrete recommendations for how to address the individual needs of your child
- There is a clear plan for autism treatments to engage the behavioral, academic, speech and language and medical resources in your area
Autism Treatment Center
At Equilibria, our autism treatment center includes early childhood specialists in Philadelphia ready to help support you and your child with autism treatments. Our specialists aid children in developing skills and specific coping mechanisms. In addition, we help parents find appropriate community resources to aid in early intervention.
After an autism diagnosis (the feedback session), the family may opt to seek treatment at Equilibria Kids’ autism treatment center. Autism treatments include:
- Private parent training to manage behaviors, foster independence, promote skills and language development at home.
- Social skills groups for children.
- Parenting groups that connect you with other parents of children with whom you will explore issues relevant to raising children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Please note that some diagnostic and treatment services by child psychologists are reimbursable by state law. Please visit www.paautism.org to find out more information.