Autism Spectrum Disorders – Overview and Resources

Autism Spectrum Disorders – Overview and Resources

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are neurological disorders that affect a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play and relate to others. ASD are “spectrum disorders.”  That means ASD affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASD share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction.  But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. There are three different types of ASD:

·         Autistic Disorder (also called “classic” autism) This is what most people think of when hearing the word “autism.”  People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability.

·         Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome usually have milder symptoms of autistic disorder.  They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests.  However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.

·         Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PPD-NOS; also called “atypical autism”) People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  People with PDD-NOS usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder.  The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys; Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Autism Facts, "a doctor should definitely and immediately evaluate a child for autism if he or she:

·         Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age

·         Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age

·         Does not say single words by 16 months of age

·         Does not say two-word phrases on his own (just repeats what someone says) by 24  months of age

·         Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.“

Along with the above symptoms,  the following may be “red flags” that a doctor should evaluate a child for ASD.

  • The child does not respond to his name.
  • The child doesn’t follow directions.
  • At times, the child seems to be deaf.
  • The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
  • The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
  • The child has odd movement patterns.
  • The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
  • The child doesn’t know how to play with toys.
  • The child doesn’t smile when smiled at.
  • The child has poor eye contact.
  • The child gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things.
  • The child seems to prefer to play alone.
  • The child gets things for himself only.
  • The child is very independent for his age.
  • The child does things “early” compared to other children.
  • The child seems to be in his “own world.”
  • The child seems to tune people out.
  • The child is not interested in other children.
  • The child walks on his toes.
  • The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants).
  • Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.

Case Managers advocate with the family to ensure a child with a ASD is receiving appropriate medical care andthe most suitable education.  Contacting the Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Social Worker assigned is the first step.

Once CMS is involved the next step is to ensure constant communication with CMS and all of the medical providers, as well as any other service providers. For educational placement or follow up contact the school board and request school health services for the child.   Advocating for the child’s rights under Federal Law 94-142 is invaluable in working with the family to ensure a child with a ASD or PDD is getting all of the services needed.