There is no single type of autism, which is why four distinct characterizations of autism or autistic behavior have been categorized into an umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD encompasses autistic disorder, childhood dis-integrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome. While each specific category of autism spectrum disorder has unique elements that make them distinct, the diagnoses covered by ASD are all characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Approximately 1 in every 59 children is affected by ASD.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Identifying behavioral indicators that may lead to an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is key to understanding your child and their behavior. Because autism is diagnosed on a spectrum and each child presents symptoms differently, you want to get a professional involved as soon as you suspect the potential for the disorder to prevent an inaccurate diagnosis.
With each child the signs and symptoms of autism can vary wildly. Some children will present with hints of autistic behavior as early as a few months old while others won’t show any obvious signs until as late as three years old. As we mentioned early, many of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder are closely aligned with communication. These may include:
- Limited to no eye contact
- Limited to no communication through sound prior to developing speech
- Limited to no communication through gestures
- Limited to no response to name
- Delayed language development; loss of previously acquired speech
- Difficulty understanding and appropriately responding to others’ feelings
- Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Repetitive behaviors, such as tapping or rocking
- Unusual and intense reactions to stimuli
There are plenty of checklists from reputable sources, such as Autism Speaks, that help parents gain a better understanding of what the symptoms of the autism spectrum disorder may entail and offer a sound starting point for parents of children displaying these types of behaviors. However, as you may have gathered from the list of behaviors above, these indicators are not as clear as a broken arm or a scraped knee. Children who are not on the autism spectrum may still display signs of these types of behaviors. If you have concerns, you can use one of these behavior checklists to determine whether or not you need an autism spectrum disorder test performed by a professional. They should not be used as a tool for diagnosis.
ASD & Co-Existing Disorders
Behavior and the brain are complicated, especially for children who present with less severe symptoms. It is not uncommon for children with less severe autistic behavior to be misdiagnosed with another behavioral disorder due to the similarities in the presentations. Another key reason that misdiagnosis can occur when it comes to autism spectrum disorder symptoms is the frequency in which symptoms of other behavioral disorders can occur in conjunction with ASD. Specifically, about 40 percent of autism spectrum disorder patients also experience symptoms of anxiety, while up to half of ASD patients struggle with one or more symptoms of ADHD.
Autism Therapies And Treatment Options
There is no cure, per say, for autism spectrum disorder, but there are a number of therapy options that directly treat behavior associated with co-existing disorders, like ADHD or anxiety, and can help alleviate autism spectrum disorder symptoms. Let’s talk about how this works.
The first step in developing autism therapies that can be effective for your child is to perform an advanced qEEG brain map to identify the neurological activity that occurs in relationship with symptoms. That data will inform a neurofeedback session that is used to train the brain to better regulate emotions and more appropriately respond to stressors that cause unwanted behavior. Neurofeedback and other brain training activities work to understand and treat the fundamental causes of specific symptoms and behaviors associated with ASD.
Parents Of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is a critical turning point in a parent’s quest to understand their child. Up until this point, parents can feel lost, frustrated, and hopeless as they strive to provide for and support their child. However, a diagnosis is not a cure and the journey doesn't end there. In fact, it’s just the beginning. At Nepes (ney-pause), we work alongside parents, guardians and siblings to help them better understand, accommodate, and support their child’s needs and symptoms. Our clinicians offer the guidance and support families need through the lifelong process of treating symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
If your child has been diagnosed with ASD or you suspect symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, contact our expert clinicians today to set up a consultation.