Identifying Autism Spectrum Disorder and What to Do Next
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Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, as its commonly known, is a developmental disorder that first appears in early childhood. Roughly one in 36 children are diagnosed with some form of ASD, making the condition very common.
The reason ASD is referred to as a spectrum has to do with the wide range of presentations of autism. There is tremendous variety in the severity that the conditions manifest. Some individuals may grow to need minimal support, while others may need high levels of support through adolescence and adulthood. Regardless of the severity of the diagnosis, there is hope for a long and enjoyable life, given that proper care is taken.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Due to the varied nature of this disorder, it often goes undetected in early childhood. Because this disorder is so broad, it is easy to assume that minor developmental issues are attributed to temperament and personality when the individual actually falls on the spectrum of autism.
ASD is s developmental disorder that is most easily observed in social communication and interaction skills. This genetic disorder is hereditary, although environmental factors greatly affect how the disorder progresses. It is important to note that ASD is found across all racial and ethnic groups, although there is evidence that it occurs more commonly in boys than girls.
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Individuals diagnosed who fall on the spectrum of autism usually have difficulty or greater challenges with social interactions. Some have a hard time understanding or being aware of social norms like personal space, voice volume, implicit and explicit language, and reading nonverbal cues. Here is a list of characteristics infants with ASD usually display:
- Difficulty with keeping eye contact
- At nine months, does not respond to their name
- Difficulty displaying emotions like happy or sad
- Has difficulty with interactive games
- Does not routinely use gestures
- Doesn’t demonstrate attachment and interest in objectives early in development
- Has difficulty comprehending pain or discomfort demonstrated by other children
- May have difficulty connecting with other children
- Cant engage in make-believe games
- Does not dance or sing
As children with ASD grow, many will be able to function adequately enough to engage in common social settings. However, some individuals will continue to have difficulties. The spectrum of ASD ranges greatly, and some individuals will have trouble in one area where others do not. Some individuals may also have significant difficulties where other people with ASD do not. As adults, ASD manifests in several ways:
- Comprehension of social rules
- Talking over others
- Maintaining eye contact
- Trouble respecting personal space with others, getting too close to them
- Becoming angry when their personal space is violated or they are touched
- Is preoccupied with details, patterns, sounds, and smells
- Developing strong interests in certain topics
- Being very process driven
After reading this list of characteristics, it is easier to see why it may be difficult to assess if someone has autism or not. Individuals who may not be on the spectrum but have not been properly socialized may share many of the same characteristics.
Many individuals that deal with ASD also have other underlying issues. These co-occurring disorders include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression. Underlying conditions can often make life far more difficult for the individual and make treatment plans more difficult as well.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are numerous methods for treating ASD, all of which begin with a proper and accurate diagnosis. Considering the genetic nature of this disorder, symptoms manifest early in childhood development. Within the first year of life, children will begin to demonstrate signs of ASD. Primary caregivers of children with autism need to be vigilant and wary of what to look for. The list of symptoms provided above is a good starting point for developing an understanding of the condition.
Alter Behavioral Health is equipped to walk with families seeking treatment plans for ASD. For adults who are looking for help managing their autism diagnosis, Alter Behavioral Health is ready to help devise a plan for making life manageable. While there is no medication currently that will help with ASD, there are underlying conditions that can be treated with medication that often make coping with everyday tasks much more achievable. Scheduling a consultation with a trained mental health care professional will help establish a baseline for a treatment plan. Treatment plans and further care include the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Training in developing coping strategies
- Social connection and engagement
- Work programs
- Care for anxiety and substance abuse
These are just some of the ways that Alter Behavioral Health is partnering with individuals living with ASD. If treated properly, ASD is not always a debilitating disorder. Many individuals live very happy and full lives by applying coping strategies and their unique skill base to their lives.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a genetic disorder that begins to show symptoms in early childhood. This disorder often is best observed in social and interpersonal interactions. Individuals with this disorder may have a hard time relating to their peers and engaging in “normal” social behaviors. Individuals with autism often develop issues with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Whether it’s cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), developing coping techniques, or treating underlying conditions through medication, Alter Behavioral Health is prepared to offer the care needed to find a stable and enjoyable pace of life. For more information on services and treatment, call us today at (866) 691-4386. We are ready to help you live the life you want.