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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly called autism, is a developmental disability that lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It affects how a person interacts with other people and their environment. All people who have autism share some difficulties, but it affects different people in different ways. It is a neurological disorder that affects normal brain functioning, especially the person’s communication and social interaction skills, and it is usually seen in a child during their first three years.
What Can Be Done?
There are professionals who work with children who have ASD, such as Lindsey Stone, to help them become more integrated in their communities and develop better communication skills. Studies show that early intensive behavioral intervention improves learning as well as social and communication skills. Some of the features of a good program for toddlers and preschool children are:
• Highly trained therapists perform the intervention.
• The therapy has well-defined learning objectives.
• The child is regularly evaluated to measure their progress in meeting these objectives.
• The child receives therapeutic activities that are well-structured for at least 25 hours every week.
• The intervention focuses on social skills, language and communication, imitation, daily living, play skills and motor skills.
• Children have the opportunity to interact with typically developing peers.
• The parents are actively engaged in the program.
• The therapist views each child as unique.
• The therapy team is multidisciplinary, including a doctor, speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist.
Tips for Helping Children With Autism
There are several things parents can do to help their ASD child, but in order to be effective, the parents must be emotionally strong. When a child is diagnosed with ASD, it may be a shock to the parents, and they will need the support of professionals. There are free government services, in-home behavioral therapy and school-based programs that assist parents as well as their children.
If parents suspect there is something of concern going on with their child, they should seek help immediately and not wait for a diagnosis. The sooner a child gets specialized help, the better chance the treatment will be successful.
Tips for Parents
• Parents should learn as much as they can about autism so they can make informed decisions for their child.
• Parents should learn as much as they can about what makes their child stressful, what calms their child and the activities their child enjoys.
• Parents should never stop the love and support a child needs from them because his or her abilities will constantly be developing.
Recognize the Symptoms
The symptoms of ASD vary in severity and may go unrecognized, especially if they are mild. Some things to look for are:
• No pointing or babbling by one year
• No single words or two-word phrases by 16 months
• No response to their name
• No or very little eye contact
• No smiling at people
• Excessively lining up toys or objects
The treatment for ASD needs to be modified as the person develops into a teenager and adult. Most people still require support and special services, but if they have a supportive environment, they may be able to work successfully and live independently. There is no cure, but with the help of professionals who are trained to help people with ASD, they can experience substantial improvement in their lives.
photo credit: G. J. Charlet III via photopin cc