Frequently Asked Questions about ASD

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, please find additional frequently asked questions about Autism Spectrum Disorders.

More Information about ASD

What Is ASD?

ASD is made up of various neurodevelopmental differences that appear to develop before children are three years old. There is no concrete scientific data as to the causes of Autism. Some scientists believe that there are environmental causes, others point to some genetic markers. Probably, the truth is a combination of both. ASD manifests itself through:

  • Certain behaviors
  • Difficulty with verbal communication
  • Difficulties with various communication skills
  • Problems with interaction with others
  • Struggles with learning and comprehension
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

It needs to be noted that no two people with ASD have the same symptoms. Some (not all) of those symptoms are the following:

  • Development delays
  • Underdeveloped language skills
  • Challenges with social interactions
  • Restricted patterns of routines
  • Problems with physical contact, especially touching
  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Problems with reading facial expressions
  • Repetitive behaviors and/or restricted interests
  • Difficulties understanding social clues
  • Underdeveloped social skills
  • Challenges with understanding information presented, causing problems with learning
  • Problems with stimuli like lights and sound
Is Early Diagnosis of Autism Beneficial?

Children who are diagnosed as infants to three years benefit by receiving early intervention services. At that age the human brain is still developing and is malleable, allowing young children to learn different skills earlier. Diagnosis at an early age can also help set up routines that children may need in the future.

What Are Some Therapies Available for Autism?

There are many different types of therapies available for children with Autism. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are seven categories of therapies available as listed below.

  • Behavioral

Behavioral approaches focus on changing behaviors by understanding what happens before and after the behavior. Behavioral approaches have the most evidence for treating symptoms of ASD. They have become widely accepted among educators and healthcare professionals and are used in many schools and treatment clinics. A notable behavioral treatment for people with ASD is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA encourages desired behaviors and discourages undesired behaviors to improve a variety of skills. Progress is tracked and measured.

Two ABA teaching styles are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT).

    • DTT uses step-by-step instructions to teach a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and desired answers and behaviors are rewarded. Undesired answers and behaviors are ignored.
    • PRT takes place in a natural setting rather than clinic setting. The goal of PRT is to improve a few “pivotal skills” that will help the person learn many other skills. One example of a pivotal skill is to initiate communication with others.
  • Developmental Approaches

Developmental approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills, such as language skills or physical skills, or a broader range of interconnected developmental abilities. Developmental approaches are often combined with behavioral approaches.

The most common developmental therapy for people with ASD is Speech and Language Therapy. Speech and Language Therapy helps to improve the person’s understanding and use of speech and language. Some people with ASD communicate verbally. Others may communicate through the use of signs, gestures, pictures, or an electronic communication device.

Occupational Therapy teaches skills that help the person live as independently as possible. Skills may include dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people. Occupational therapy can also include:

    • Sensory Integration Therapyto help improve responses to sensory input that may be restrictive or overwhelming.
    • Physical Therapycan help improve physical skills, such as fine movements of the fingers or larger movements of the trunk and body.

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a broad developmental approach based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. It is used with children 12-48 months of age. Parents and therapists use play, social exchanges, and shared attention in natural settings to improve language, social, and learning skills.

  • Educational Approaches

Educational treatments are given in a classroom setting. One type of educational approach is the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children (TEACCH) approach. TEACCH is based on the idea that people with autism thrive on consistency and visual learning. It provides teachers with ways to adjust the classroom structure and improve academic and other outcomes. For example, daily routines can be written or drawn and placed in clear sight. Boundaries can be set around learning stations. Verbal instructions can be complimented with visual instructions or physical demonstrations.

  • Social-Relational Approaches

Social-relational treatments focus on improving social skills and building emotional bonds. Some social-relational approaches involve parents or peer mentors.

    • The Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based model (also called “Floor time”) encourages parents and therapists to follow the interests of the individual to expand opportunities for communication.
    • The Relationship Development Intervention(RDI) model involves activities that increase motivation, interest, and abilities to participate in shared social interactions.
    • Social Storiesprovide simple descriptions of what to expect in a social situation.
    • Social Skills Groupsprovide opportunities for people with ASD to practice social skills in a structured environment.
  • Pharmacological Approaches

There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of ASD. Some medications treat co-occurring symptoms that can help people with ASD function better. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behavior, such as head banging or hand biting. Medication can also help manage co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression, in addition to medical conditions such as seizures, sleep problems, or stomach or other gastrointestinal problems.

It is important to work with a doctor who has experience in treating people with ASD when considering the use of medication. This applies to both prescription medication and over-the-counter medication. Individuals, families, and doctors must work together to monitor progress and reactions to be sure that negative side effects of the medication do not outweigh the benefits.

  • Psychological Approaches

Psychological approaches can help people with ASD cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one psychological approach that focuses on learning the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During CBT, a therapist and the individual work together to identify goals and then change how the person thinks about a situation to change how they react to the situation.

  • Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Some individuals and parents use treatments that do not fit into any of the other categories. These treatments are known as Complementary and Alternative treatments. Complementary and alternative treatments are often used to supplement more traditional approaches. They might include special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies. Individuals and families should always talk to their doctor before starting a complementary and alternative treatment.

There may be other treatments available for individuals with ASD. Talk to a doctor or healthcare provider to learn more.

"Black and White" Thinking and Laziness

Often people on the Autism Spectrum are described as concrete or “black and white” thinkers. For example, something is either true or false. There are no gray areas. No possiblity that the truth may lie in between.

Here is a wonderful quote from and Aspie on Facebook that was shared by our friend, Dave Angel.

“What LOOKS like black and white thinking in an autistic is really needing cold hard  facts so that wecan form our own conclusions and a mental framework to make sense of it all.”

Another misconception about Aspies is that they are lazy or unmotivated. But nothing could be further from the truth according to another Aspie Facebook entry.

“What LOOKS like laziness is often a culmination of anxiety, overload, executive dysfunction and a lack of coping mechanisms and support. Our bodies may not be moving but our thoughts are racing”.

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