Autism Information and Resources

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The whole point of this blog is to provide information and resources to parents!

Together we will understand AUTISM and LEARN how we can help our children on the spectrum.

So what is AUTISM?

The best description/definition of autism comes from a terrific website, Autism Speaks:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.


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SIGNS of AUTISM

Every child on the spectrum are different and show different signs.  Some children may show mild or severe symptoms, may show many signs or just a few.

A child with ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name (the child may appear deaf)
  • May not point at objects or things of interest, or demonstrate interest
  • Unwilling to play “pretend” games
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Want to be alone
  • Have difficulty understanding, or showing understanding, or other people’s feelings or their own
  • Have no speech or delayed speech
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions (over or under-sensitivity) to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
  • Have low to no social skills
  • Avoid or resist physical contact
  • Demonstrate little safety or danger awareness
  • Reverse pronouns (e.g., says “you” instead of “I”)
  • Gives unrelated answers to questions

Children with autism may also:

  • Have unusual interests and behaviors
  • Have extreme anxiety and phobias, as well as unusual phobias
  • Line up toys or other objects
  • Play with toys the same way every time
  • Like parts of objects (e.g., wheels)
  • Become upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests

Other Symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity (very active)
  • Impulsivity (acting without thinking)
  • Short attention span
  • Aggression
  • Causing self injury
  • Meltdowns
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected
  • Have unusual sleeping habits

source: National Autism Association


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WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE SIGNS?

Trust me, no parent ever wants to admit that their child might have a problem.  I’ve been there.  Here’s my best advice: TAKE ACTION! If I could go back 8 years ago I would slap myself and scream TAKE ACTION!  I don’t recommend the “wait-and-see” method. Honestly, trust your instincts.

So if you’re seeing signs around 1 year to 18 months, speak to your pediatrician first.  Right down the signs you see and address each one with the doctor.  From a medical stand point they will guide you in the right direction.  Now, you might be saying to yourself, “I think he’s just a little delayed; I don’t see the signs a lot OR he only shows a few.”

Here’s where EARLY INTERVENTION comes into play.  I’m so glad we did this for our son (even though I wish we did it sooner, I played the “wait-and-see” game).  So what’s Early Intervention?

Early intervention services are a range of targeted services to help young children who have developmental delays or specific health conditions. Different types of specialists work with these kids. Providing services early helps children catch up and increases their chances for success in school and life overall.  *source: understood.org

Read more about Early Intervention here: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/early-intervention/early-intervention-what-it-is-and-how-it-works

You can ask your pediatrician for contact information for early intervention in your area or get in contact with the State system directly.  The State is responsible for providing early intervention programs for infants and toddlers. The agency in charge is called the lead agency. Services for children are provided at the local level, under State supervision.  Find out the lead agency for your State at the ECTA Center: http://ectacenter.org/contact/ptccoord.asp


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SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AUTISM AND ASPERGERS?

Aspergers was once an independent diagnosis, but that has been changed.  I honestly don’t know why, but now Asperger Syndrome falls under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella.

Aspergers is considered “high-functioning”, but struggles socially, displays repetitive behaviors and has restrictive interest.  This is definitely my son.  Mikey has a hard time understanding others’ emotions and can’t read subtle emotional cues.  He also struggles socially with other children the same age.  He will constantly repeat himself, especially about his interests and even act out certain videos from YouTube.

Here are some signs of Aspergers found from Autism Speaks website:

• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• “robotic” or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms

If you suspect Aspergers Syndrome for your child then definitely talk with your doctor and your child’s teacher.  I’m always speaking with my son’s school team of teachers and discuss my concerns and what behaviors I see at home.  I think being open and communicating your concerns with your school is really the best way to help your child.


MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS VS. EDUCATIONAL ELIGIBILITY 

So you might be asking yourself, does my child need a medical diagnosis of autism to receive special education services at school? Well, no!  My son has an educational diagnosis of autism, not medical.  Now, if your child has a medical diagnosis of autism, does this automatically give your child special education services? Not exactly!

Parents are often surprised to learn that a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) does not automatically entitle a student to special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Eligibility for special education services is based, rather, on an educational determination of a disability, which includes meeting not just the criteria for a specific disability (such as autism), but also finding that a student is in need of special services. Understanding the differences between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination of eligibility for special education services can help parents become better advocates for their children.  *source: Car Autism Roadmap

Phew, that was a mouthful.  Basically the difference is based on criteria.  A medical diagnosis of autism is made by a doctor and the child must meet a certain number of symptoms.  As for educational eligibility, a team of educators and parents agree and find that the child qualifies for services.  For complete descriptions, definitions and details, please click here.


 

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