Since 1992, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses have increased from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 68 children in the United States (CDC, 2012). Given the increasing trend, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that children with ASD may exhibit. These are some key signs that a child with ASD may show:
- unusually intense or focused interests
- stereotyped and repetitive body movements (e.g., hand flapping, rocking)
- repetitive use of objects (e.g., repeatedly switching lights on/off )
- inflexibility with routines (e.g., travelling the same route home each day and doing things in exactly the same order every time)
- sensory interests (e.g., sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects)
- sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
Although the previously mentioned behaviors are typically observed in individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is important to seek a formal evaluation from your pediatrician. Early diagnosis has many benefits, including the opportunity for early intervention. Early intervention may increase the likelihood of improvement in areas such as communication, independent functional living skills (e.g., getting dressed independently), and a decrease in maladaptive behavior (e.g., aggression). However, even if your child is diagnosed at a later age, there are interventions that will help in increase independence.
There are many therapies offered to individuals diagnosed with ASD. Although there are many therapies that people have deemed to be successful, it is very hard to sort out which therapies would yield better results. As such, it is important to research those therapies, so you can make your own informed decisions regarding your child’s therapy. Many of these therapies either lack empirical evidence regarding their effectiveness, or the studies that have been conducted are mixed on whether they are effective. Fortunately, many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of more popular treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), leaving parents with viable treatment options for their children.
BCOTB focuses on the use of ABA, in which, parent support is paramount. One of the most important features of behavioral analysis is consistency in treatment. Thus, if treatment is being carried out at home in the same manner as it is in the clinic, the effects are more likely to maintain. Parental support focus is placed on key behavioral areas such as how to manage maladaptive behaviors and how to help your child increase his or her communication skills. Behavioral analysis focuses on the consequences of a behavior to assess its continued occurrence. For example, if every time you greeted someone on the street, you were mocked, you’d probably stop greeting people. Similarly, whether its functional skills or communication skills, if a child learns how to access something, either through communicating or by independently retrieving it, but never receives that item, they will most likely stop engaging in that behavior. On the other hand, if a child learns that if they whine they gain access to your attention or an item, they may continue to whine so long as it keeps yielding that consequence. Through parent support we help discern how to increase functional requesting and skills while simultaneously decreasing those maladaptive behaviors.
Most importantly, you are an advocate for not only your child but for yourself. If at any point you’re feeling lost and confused, reach out for advice from professionals and those who may be in similar situations. Here are some resources that may help guide you:
- http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/national-standards-project/ - up to date information regarding interventions.
- www.autism.com - news and studies regarding autism.
- https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/community-connections/financial-assistance - financial options for those with autism.