Autistic individuals may have weaknesses in the areas of social skills, communication, self-care, sensory integration, fine/gross motor skills, masking, and self advocacy. Autistics can range from non-verbal to speak eloquently and possess an extensive vocabulary and early literacy. Knowing the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the first step to early identification and self empowerment.
Some of the most noticeable symptoms of ASD, according to the CDC are:
- not pointing at objects to show interest
- not looking at objects when another person points at them
- appearing to be unaware when other people talk to them
- not liking to be held or cuddled
- repeating or echo words/ phrases said to them in place of normal language
- being very interested in people, but not know how to talk or play with them
- losing skills they once had (e.g., stop saying words they were using)
- not playing “pretend” games
- having trouble relating to others
- avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- having trouble understanding other people’s feelings
- having trouble expressing their needs using typical words
- repeating actions over and over again
- having trouble adapting when a routine changes
- having unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
The first step is always to write down a list of your concerns to discuss them with your pediatrician. When you visit with your pediatrician about your concerns they most likely will have you complete the M-CHAT, a screening tool designed to identify children who may benefit from a more thorough Autism evaluation. If your pediatrician deems it necessary they may refer you to a specialist that is trained to administer the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2). Usually these specialists are a child neurologist, developmental pediatrician, an educational psychologist, an Autism Specialist, or a speech-language pathologist. The ADOS-2 is a testing instrument utilized for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder. The diagnosing physician should always have input from a speech-language pathologist and an occupational therapist.
After identification of symptoms or a diagnosis, intervention is KEY.
There are many falsely advertised “cures” to Autism and it is vital to discuss any and all treatment options with your family doctor. There is NO cure for Autism and many would argue that there is not need for a cure. Typically, Autistic children enroll in speech-language therapy and occupational therapy. ABA therapy is another therapy that is often recommended in large quantities; however, ABA is a compliance based training and only teaches children compliance and masking skills, which has been linked to C-PTSD. Speech-language and occupational therapies address weaknesses from social skills (interacting with others) without masking, receptive language skills (understanding others), expressive language skills ( communicating wants and needs, verbally or non-verbally using a communication device), narrative language, self-care needs (grooming, brushing teeth, feeding skills), sensory processing skills (responding to sensory experiences such as through touch, taste, sound, and movement), executive functioning skills, and behavior. If you have concerns about Autism it is important to share those concerns with your family doctor, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or neurologist.