April is Autism Awareness Month, which means it’s right around the corner. The CDC reports that Autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States. So, what is Autism? Autism Speaks defines Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as conditions that include challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and communication.
Some examples include difficulty understanding nonverbal communications, like body language. Similarly, they experience difficulty responding in social situations. They may also struggle with eye contact and relationships. It is common for changes in routine or environment to be upsetting for those with ASD. Therefore, they often have a very narrow or intense focus on limited areas of interest, and display repetitive movements, speech, or use of objects.
A professional can make a diagnosis by age 2, and it can be detected even earlier. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older. Likewise, some people are not diagnosed until they are adults.
Before a diagnosis is given, a brief screening test can be done. The test can show whether or not a child is on the right track. If they are not, a formal evaluation may be needed. This includes a specialist taking a thorough look at a child’s development. Types of specialists include developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, or a team of multiple. They may observe, give a structured test, ask caregivers questions, or ask them to fill out questionnaires. The results of this evaluation determines whether a child needs special treatments, early intervention services, or both.
Research shows that early intervention can help tremendously. For instance, it improves learning, communication, and social skills. Individualized treatment is necessary to help each person’s specific needs. For instance, behavioral interventions, speech therapies, occupational therapies, medication, or a combination of methods may be needed.
A variety of therapy approaches can be used. In general, therapists work with people to reduce problem behaviors and develop skills. By identifying triggers, children are able to learn what sets them off and prevent negative behaviors. Building social skills in therapy can also help them interact with others and live a normal life.
Additionally, group therapy may be useful. This allows children to learn social skills and then practice them with peers.
In some cases, medication can be used in combination with therapy. Medication can be effective with physical and mental symptoms that often occur with Autism.
Life with Autism
An Autism diagnosis does not have to limit an individual’s ability to live a full and productive life. For example, expert Simon Baron-Cohen believes that Albert Einstein may have had ASD. His genius intellect, loner tendencies and obsessive, repetitive behavior are a few indications. Steve Jobs, Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Mozart, and Hans Christian Andersen are also believed to have been on the spectrum.
If you would like to learn more about which therapies may be best for your child, give us a call. We have several experienced providers at Covenant Family Solutions that can work with you and your child to overcome challenges, improve skillsets, and work towards a rewarding life.