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Understanding Autism

Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects social communication, social interaction, and cognitive functioning. ASD can also present in the form of repetitive behaviors and challenges with speech and non-verbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control estimates ASD affects impacts one in 54 children with males being four times more likely to receive a diagnosis.  

Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorders is a spectrum disorder because each individual with ASD is just that, an individual. A quote that is often heard in this field is, If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autismEveryone who has ASD manifest the diagnosis in a different, individualized way. Some individuals’ developmental progression are highly affected by their diagnosis, and others are impacted in more subtle ways/manners. Some individuals with ASD excel in certain areas where others may face challenges across all developmental areas 

Some behaviors you may notice in an individual with ASD are:  

  • deficits in body language and eye contact
  • difficulty in social interactions
  • challenges building and maintaining relationships and forming friendships
  • learning and then knowing how and when to act in social situations
  • difficulty processing sensory input
  • rigid behavior routines that may be accompanied by undesired behaviors when the individual cannot complete the routine
  • unusual and intense interests in specific topics or activities
  • delayed speech
  • using only a few gestures (e.g., flapping arms, clapping)
  • not responding when someone calls his/her name
  • avoiding eye contact, fleeting eye contact, or looking to the side of a person’s face while speaking
  • not sharing enjoyment or interests with others in shared activities
  • engaging in unusual or atypical movement of hands, fingers, or whole body
  • little to no imitating of others or pretending
  • unusual sensory interests (e.g., biting own hands)  
  • ritualistic patterns of behavior (such as repeating things over and over or lining up objects)  
  • challenges with pretend play…there is no specific number you may or may not see

As stated above, no two individuals with ASD are alike, therefore ASD in one person may look completely different from the presentation of the associated behaviors in another person. Some behaviors can are apparent as early as 18 months while others may appear or are masked until later in life.  

Though there is no known “cure” for Autism there are treatments and resources available. Early intervention is key, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a scientific approach with validated success in helping individuals with ASD and their loved ones navigate their lives towards independence and understanding.  

 

— Morgan Ottone, BCBA In-Training

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