Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in three keys areas: social interaction, communication with others, and repetitive or rigid behaviors. These impairments can present themselves in a variety of ways.
What are signs of autism in my child?
Some social deficits that may be noticed with your little one, include:
· Lack of smiling or joyful response to a parent by 6 months of age
· Not responding to their name by looking or orienting their body in the direction their name was called, by 1 year
· Not waving “bye-bye” by 1 year
· No pretend or “make believe” play by 18-24 months
· Preference to play by themselves/no desire to interact with peers by 2 ½ years
Some communication deficits that may be noticed with your little one, include:
· Not making or sharing sounds with others by 9 months of age
· Lack of pointing to items of interest by 14-16 months
· No regularly used words by 16-18 months
· Lack of use of 2-word utterances by age 2
Repetitive or Rigid Behavior
The occurrence of repetitive or rigid behavior at any time during development can be cause for concern. Some of these behaviors include:
· Stereotypy - the persistent repetition of movement of the body or of an object, is a big indicator of autism. Examples of stereotypy include, but are not limited to, repetitive movement of the hands in front of the face, hand-flapping, following objects or body parts with a repetitive eye gaze, lining up toys (and becoming very upset if the line is broken in any way), and/or pulling at the hair or hair twirling
· Echolalia - repeating back what was said to them in a non-functional way or repeating lines from movies, commercials or other outlets that have been heard previously in a non-functional context
· Extreme duress expressed to a change in routine or schedule; a need for “sameness” in daily routines
· Difficulties with transitions
It is important to note that any of these deficits in isolation does not mean that a little one may have autism. Typically, a combination of these deficits will be present and when combined, there may be cause for concern. Also, loss of any skills at any point in development is a red flag and indicator. Examples of this include, a child who used to wave “bye-bye” but no longer does, used to babble but stopped, used to respond to their name or used to speak a few words but no longer uses them.
What do I do if I think my child may have autism?
If your little one is displaying a combination of these behaviors or has lost any skills, please consult your pediatrician. The pediatrician should then refer to a specialist, including a developmental pediatrician, developmental psychologist, or developmental neurologist who is qualified to perform a full diagnostic evaluation.
My child has been diagnosed with autism (ASD). What are the next steps?
First of all, breathe. You’ve got this! There is a lot of information to take in when a diagnosis of autism is determined. Often times, recommendations are given for up to 30 hours per week for intensive ABA therapy which leaves parents thinking, “Where can I fit 30 hours of therapy into my child’s schedule?!”
What is ABA therapy and how can it fit into my schedule?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the scientific approach to teaching socially significant behavior by the use of behavior principles and understanding the variables responsible for lasting change. For young learners, quality ABA therapy programs focus on family-centered programming that targets pre-academic, social, communication, and self-help skills. ABA also focuses on decreasing challenging behavior while increasing positive behaviors. One goal of ABA is to give your child the tools they will need to feel comfortable in the community and surroundings. This is done in a variety of ways.
Research shows that ABA therapy is one of the most effective treatments for teaching those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although ABA is a critical therapy for your child, it often is just one component of a multidisciplinary treatment plan. ABA targets a wide array of skills, however, remains behavioral in nature so other therapies including physical, speech, occupational therapies may also be beneficial to your child. Using a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach is just one effective method to treatment.
ABA therapy can be conducted across environments. Often, therapy will occur at a center, at your child’s daycare, and/or in the home. An ABA therapist may be present during family outings to the grocery store, park, or other activity to teach appropriate behaviors in these settings. Scheduling can be flexible and can even occur on the weekends.
Lumiere Children’s Therapy focuses on naturalistic instruction, or play-based learning for young children and offers a multidisciplinary approach to therapy, with a customized treatment plan created just for your child. If you need help with your child’s ASD diagnosis, contact us today so we can help.
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