Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): What You Should Know and How to Support Those With ASD
Many individuals around the world are affected by a developmental disorder called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders frequently struggle to acquire language, develop literacy, and engage in social interactions. Other characteristic symptoms range from difficulties in social interaction, communication challenges, and repetitive behaviors. Autism is a condition that can affect both children and adults, and we must better understand and accept people with ASD.
At Educational Resource Associates, we have seen children who are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with this disorder. Our goal is to shed light on proper diagnosis and tests so we can set forth a plan to help children with ASD as soon as possible. Early intervention is key to decreasing the range of symptoms ASD brings.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate, interact with others, and engage in typical social settings. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning that individuals with ASD can vary greatly in terms of their strengths, challenges, and symptoms. Autism, a condition characterized by deficiencies in social engagement and communication including impaired conversational skills and atypical and limited spoken language, is increasingly becoming one of the most prevalent disorders in children nowadays.
What are the Risk Factors and Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Genetic Factors and Fragile X Syndrome
Research has shown that genetic factors play a significant role in the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder. One such genetic condition is Fragile X Syndrome, which is a known cause of ASD. If your child happens to have autism, there is a 2% to 6% probability that they may also have Fragile X syndrome. Fragile X Syndrome occurs due to a mutation in the FMR1 gene, leading to impaired brain development and an increased risk of autism.
Environmental Factors and Vaccine Controversy
The topic of environmental factors and their potential link to autism has been a subject of controversy. While some studies have suggested a possible association between certain environmental factors and autism, such as exposure to certain chemicals, researchers have found no credible scientific evidence to support the notion that vaccines cause autism. The highly esteemed National Academy of Medicine, previously known as the Institute of Medicine, thoroughly examined the safety of eight vaccines provided to both children and adults. Their examination unequivocally confirmed that, with only extremely rare cases, these vaccines are incredibly safe.
Other Risk Factors for ASD
In addition to genetic and environmental factors, there are other risk factors that may increase the likelihood of Autism Spectrum Disorder. These include advanced parental age at the time of conception, prenatal exposure to certain medications or chemicals, and certain medical conditions during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of autism and its effects on social interaction?
The symptoms of ASD can vary, but they typically include difficulties with social interactions and communication, repetitive behaviors or interests, and challenges with sensory processing. Some individuals may also have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Autistic people can also suffer from a bewildering array of problems such as sensory disturbances, food allergies, gastrointestinal problems, depression, obsessive compulsiveness, subclinical epilepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Bonesteel, 2002). Each child with autism has a different severity level and requires a different level of support (National Institute of Mental Health, 2023)
Early Signs and Developmental Delays
Autism can be detected as early as the first two years of life. Developmental delays, such as not crawling or walking by the expected age, can be indicators of ASD. Children with autism also seem to prefer non-speech sounds to speech sounds. Their preference for non-speech stimuli and their lack of motivation to engage socially with their caregivers may deprive them of opportunities to develop language and speech skills.
Social Interaction Challenges
One of the hallmark symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder is difficulties in social interaction. People with ASD may find it challenging to engage in a two-way conversation, make eye contact, or understand social cues. They may have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships with others.
Social Interaction challenges may include:
- Difficulty in making eye contact
- Cannot focus on people who are talking
- Rarely expressing interest in, feeling for, or enjoying things or activities (including rarely pointing at or demonstrating things to others).
- Refusing to acknowledge or taking too long to acknowledge one’s name or other verbal requests for attention
- Difficulties with a two-way conversation
- Often zoning in on a favorite subject without recognizing that others are not interested or giving them an opportunity to answer
- Showing facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
- Having an odd speech tone that could come off as sing-songy or flat and robotic
- Unable to comprehend another person’s viewpoint or their behaviors, or having problems predicting their actions
- Having trouble changing one’s behavior to fit social circumstances
- Challenges with cooperation during pretend play or creating friends
Are There Different Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a spectrum disorder as cases are often divided into subtypes based on the severity of symptoms, level of intellectual functioning, and other factors. Some commonly recognized subtypes include autistic disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. We will also talk about bloomers; these are children and adolescents with autism who outgrew some of their symptoms.
High-Functioning Autism (HFA)
High-Functioning Autism (HFA) refers to individuals with ASD who have average or above-average intelligence but still exhibit challenges in social interaction and communication. They may have difficulty understanding social norms and may engage in repetitive behaviors. But often they require less assistance to go about their daily activities. They can accomplish everyday tasks on their own and their symptoms do not cause too many problems in their relationships, jobs or schooling. They can live independently (Marschall, 2022).
Asperger Syndrome is another type of Autism Spectrum Disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome often have a strong interest in specific topics and may excel in areas such as math or science. But these individuals exhibit greater challenges in their social interactions.
Bloomers are children with autism spectrum disorder who first exhibit significant symptoms but eventually outgrow them (Carroll, 2012).
If more kids received the correct kind of therapy early in life, the likelihood of such significant improvements might increase. It should go without saying that early diagnosis is key to delivering effective treatment as soon as possible to curb autism symptoms.
The main differences observed between kids who bloomed and those who didn’t come down to who got early intensive therapy. Often than not, the kids who got early intensive therapy have parents who got more education and are more financially stable.
Most kids with autism require assistance for between 30 and 40 hours per week. The parents who do this appear to have more money and can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate.
In reality, intensive therapy for autism can be expensive. However, at Educational Resource Associates we offer affordable interventions that are curated to your child’s needs.
How is autism screened? Diagnosis and tests
According to the CDC, since there is no specific medical test to screen for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as a blood test, it might be challenging to make the diagnosis. In order to determine a diagnosis, doctors consider the child’s behavior and developmental history.
Autism can be diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation that may include observing the individual’s behavior, gathering information from parents or caregivers, and using standardized tests or assessments to measure developmental and social skills.
ASD can occasionally be identified in children as young as 18 months. By age 2, a qualified professional’s diagnosis can be trusted. However, many kids don’t get a definitive diagnosis until they’re much older. Some patients don’t receive a diagnosis until they are teenagers or adults. People with ASD may not receive the early assistance they require as a result of this delay.
What are some common tests used for autism diagnosis?
Autism cannot be identified by a single test. But here are some common tests used for autism diagnosis including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and various developmental and cognitive assessments.
Why is Awareness and Acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder Important?
Understanding and Supporting Individuals with ASD
Creating awareness and fostering acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder is vital to ensure individuals with ASD receive the necessary support and understanding they need. It is important to educate society about ASD and promote inclusivity, empathy, and respect towards people with autism.
Research shows that early childhood intervention is important in managing autism symptoms.
Therefore, access to appropriate education is crucial for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Providing inclusive educational settings, tailored support, and specialized teaching strategies can greatly benefit children with ASD and help them reach their full potential.
Are there any organizations or resources for individuals diagnosed with autism?
Yes, there are several organizations and resources available for individuals diagnosed with autism and their families. Some notable organizations include the Autism Society, Asperger/Autism Network (AANE), Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). These organizations provide support, education, and advocacy for individuals with autism.
Can autism be prevented?
Currently, there is no known way to prevent autism. However, early intervention and support can greatly improve outcomes for individuals with autism. It’s important to promote awareness and acceptance of autism to create a more inclusive society.
How Can Education Resource Associates Help Your Child with Autism?
Here at Educational Resource Associates, all our programs are individually written for each student. We consistently provide high degrees of accountability. Our Mastery Teaching approach requires students to gain knowledge at 100% mastery.
Programs are built around carefully sequenced skills for mastery of larger goals. We provide instruction solely targeting the areas where the student requires improvement. We deliver educational programs intensively and for short periods of time. Intensive work is the fastest way to ensure educational growth and skill retention.
Our Director, Judy Hintz, is qualified to diagnose the many current labels such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and autism. These labels carry the danger of faulty stigmatization of the student. This reinforces more negative outcomes at school. We dig deeper to find each student’s strengths to build on while working on deficiencies.
We have a diagnostic approach that goes beyond an autism label. We are careful to diagnose all developmental skills and plan a program to instruct and master these skills in an appropriate sequential manner.
Language skills will be assessed to find out the level and functioning in this area. We can start with a child as young as 24 months old who may be nonverbal all the way up to adults who are functioning at a high level in college. High-functioning autistic adults generally manifest expressive and receptive language, both oral and written. Social skills and comprehension are usually additional needs. High-functioning autistic adults have a desire to “fit in” to different social situations and also demonstrate stress and anxiety about their social environment.
In addition to academics, we provide an individualized growth environment to reduce anxiety and stress. Starting these programs often results in a significant improvement in self-confidence. Another aspect of our program is the intensity with which we work. This results in greater brain functioning.
Our staff may structure a program that includes family members who can also deliver our instruction under the careful guidance of our director. Grandparents, parents, and family friends often join us in this mission to quickly diminish symptoms of autism.
Of course, the younger the child the faster the students catch up.
Our director’s broad base of experience does not lead to an overdiagnosis of autism that is currently prevalent today. While testing is only one part of successful remediation. We realize that many negative behaviors may be due to other reasons not considered in autism.
Educational Resource Associates is a good fit for autism because of our experience and structure which leads to greater gains in a shorter period of time. We also work closely with parents to help with the direction of their children. This may include behavior as well as an academic program. We also use a consistent rewards program that stresses positive behaviors both academic and behavioral.
No two children are the same. Each client has a different program, and the program is quickly readjusted. And most importantly our clinic uses a system of language training on an intense basis. We do it consistently and sequentially. This is a feature most overlooked in almost every autistic program today. Language training changes the brain.
National Institute of Mental Health (2023). Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd
Bonesteel, A. (2002, May 6). The Secrets of Autism. Time.
Marschall, A. (2022, October 18). What Is ‘High-Functioning’ Autism. VeryWell Mind. ‘High-Functioning Autism’: What to Know (verywellmind.com)
Carroll, L. (2012, April 2) Outgrowing autism? Study looks at why some kids ‘bloom’. NBC News. Outgrowing autism? Study looks at why some kids ‘bloom’ (nbcnews.com)