Autism Awareness: Focus on Early Detection and Intervention

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 in Ask The Therapist | 0 comments

Information about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) awareness is very important for an early diagnosis and intervention is to an individual’s success. ASD refers to a collection of developmental disorders that relate specifically to communication, socialization and learning challenges, as well as restrictive or repetitive behaviors. People with ASD often have trouble communicating and interacting with others, understanding emotional nuances and social cues, and adjusting to minor changes in routine or surroundings. There is also a wide range, or “spectrum,” of symptoms and levels of severity that accompany it. Some people are very mildly affected, while others have significant challenges in their daily life. The definition of ASD now also encompasses what was known as Asperger Syndrome, which is a higher functioning version of the disorder.

How do I know if my child has ASD? In recent years, the rates of children identified with ASD have increased. It can be diagnosed early in life, at 2 to 3 years old and sometimes earlier; however, ti is still a challenging diagnosis to make. Some children with the typical symptoms may not have autism, and not all children with autism exhibit the typical symptoms. Some children will show signs in early infancy, others develop normally for the first couple of years of life, then stop meeting developmental markers or lose skills they have already learned. Some children have difficulty learning and gave signs of lower intelligence, while other children learn quickly and have normal to high intelligence. Some of the common red flags for ASD in infants/toddlers are:

  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Limited or no smiling/joyful expressions when interacting with others
  • No response to name when called
  • Minimal to no reaching for affection or being held
  • Lack of hitting developmental markers or regression of previously learned skills (i.e. speech/social skills)

Prevention and Treatment: There’s no way to prevent ASD, but early diagnosis and intervention is crucial for improving behavior, skills and language development. The first step is to set up an evaluation with a specialist in ASD, who can do a clinical interview and evaluate your child using standardized diagnostic instruments to assess ASD (such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule or ADOS) and help develop a plan for treatment. Treatment is helpful at any age, even in adulthood. There are a variety of treatment options available; behavioral, communication, educational, and family therapies. Medication is also helpful. There is no “one size fits all” treatment plan, and your child’s treatment needs could change over time. Working closely with your child’s medical or mental health professional is key to determining the right treatment plan.

 

Written by Dr. Beth Holmes, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

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