Specializing in In-Home ABA Programs for Children with Autism & Other Related Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorders
What is Autism?
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.
There are many in the scientific community who believe that there is a strong genetic component or pre-disposition to autism spectrum disorders.
It's important to note that in the past 10 years of looking for the "autism gene," none has been found which leads many researchers to believe that something had to TRIGGER the gene to turn on and cause autism.
According to officials at the National Institutes of Health, while there is most likely a genetic predisposition, there must also be an environmental component to autism. The rapid rise in the rate of autism over the last 15 years cannot be attributed solely to genetics.
Autism is no longer considered a heritable, genetic disorder. It is an environmentally triggered, therefore preventable and treatable disease. Environmental research holds the key to finding the cause and developing effective treatments for those affected.
In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path.
If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
No babbling by 12 months
No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
No words by 16 months
No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
Autism is diagnosed based on clinical observation and testing by a professional using one or more standardized tests. Professionals most likely to diagnose autism are psychologists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and school psychologists. Some of the screenings and tests which may be used in the diagnostic process are: CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), Autism Diagnostic Checklist Form E-2, CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test -2, ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale), and ADI-R (Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised).
In addition, parental interview and medical history are taken into consideration.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) has specific criterion required to make a diagnosis of autism, or a Pervasive Development Disorder.
There are five disorders under the PDD umbrella which include Autism, Aspergers, Rhett's Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and PDD-NOS (not otherwise specified).
The diagnosis of autism may be made when a specified number of characteristics listed in the DSM-IV are present.
DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR 299.00 AUTISTIC DISORDER**
*Source: The American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Washington D.C., American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
A. A total of at least six items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):
1.Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
omarked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
ofailure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
oa lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
olack of social or emotional reciprocity
2.Qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:
odelay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
oin individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
ostereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
olack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
3.Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
oencompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
oapparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
ostereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole body movements)
opersistent preoccupation with parts of objects
B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.
C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett's Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
There is no single treatment protocol for all children with autism, but most individuals respond best to highly structured behavioral programs. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lists Applied Behavior Analysis among the recommended treatment methods for autism spectrum disorders.