What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by deficits in social communication and in social interactions. The person being diagnosed by this disorder must also have restricted repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
Until recently, there were several diagnoses that were given along the spectrum of autism that included Asperger’s disorder, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. These are currently all included under autism spectrum disorder.
Those diagnosed with ASD are found to display some or all of the following characteristics. These symptoms will range from mild to severe depending on your child’s unique needs.
- Lack of social communication
- Difficulty understanding nonverbal communication
- Difficulty forming and maintaining peer relationships
- Using self-stimulating behaviors such as finger wiggling, hand flapping, and rocking
- Hurting oneself
- Displaying repetitive and highly focused behaviors
- Displaying aggression toward objects and people
- Having a hard time understanding and responding to environmental stimulation
- Must have a daily routine with plenty of preventative steps built into the day in order to manage conflicts (internal or external) and/or to manage unexpected changes to their routine
- Obsessions with objects or activities to which looking at pictures, talking, or drawing may consume the majority of their focus
- Does not see the ‘grey areas’ in situations. Child is inflexible to alternate ways of thinking
Autistic Spectrum Disorder can be differentiated from other developmental disorders in the 20–26 month age range based upon the following delays:
- Communicative use of eye contact
- Knowing one’s name
- Joint attention behaviors (i.e., pointing, showing, bringing, gaze monitoring, sharing)
- Following another person’s focus of attention through eye gaze or gesture
- Pretend play
- Nonverbal communication
- Language development
Further indicators include:
- by 12 months—absence of communicative gesture use (e.g., pointing)
- by 12 months failure to follow nonverbal communication (e.g., does not come when mom extends her arms)
- by 16 months absence of single words
- by 24 months absence of two-word phrases
- at any age, loss of a social skill such as language
Across many developmental areas, children with autism spectrum disorder can acquire and demonstrate a wide range of skills with support and guidance from parents and teachers. Challenge will occur when these children are unable to use the skills independently on their own. Furthermore, children with ASD have difficulty relating new stimuli to their past experiences because of a very high specific memory and inability to connect experiences.
A child with ASD may find any changes in the environment such as new glass used for drinking, new lunchbox, or even having new people around as something majorly difficult to adapt to. Preparing autistic children to the best of your ability ahead of time is advised.
What can I do at home to help my who has ASD?
There are effective social skill interventions for parents like you to use at home for children with autism. Some of these interventions like:
- video modeling and
- social stories
have been proven to be successful in promoting independence of children with ASD and improving their social interactions.
Self-Monitoring. You can teach your child with autism spectrum disorder to monitor their own behavior by helping them identify target behaviors, design a self-management method, and teaching them how to use the plan. Your support and guidance in this process is a must throughout the entire learning experience. This strategy can help children with autism reduce repetitive behaviors, increase appropriate play, and improve the use of independent daily living skills.
Video Modeling. Video modeling can be helpful in teaching skills using minimal prompting and interaction from you. First, choose the target skills that the child needs to learn. Videotape a model or your child doing the target skill for 2-4 minutes and let them watch it repetitively until they acquire the skill. Give your child a chance to imitate the skill observed in the video – this activity is enjoyable to many children.
Social Stories. Social Stories can be easily used by parents to address inappropriate behaviors of children. This was first introduced in 1993 by Carol Gray and is primarily aimed at assisting those with ASD in their social difficulties. For more information visit www.thegraycenter.org.
Parents today are faced with difficult choices regarding which treatment options will be most appropriate for their child with autism spectrum disorder. As found in the intervention examples above, parents of children with ASD agree that the most effective interventions seem to be generalized use of teaching strategies within daily routines such as dressing, eating snacks, hand washing, and bathing – among others.
Raising a child with ASD is challenging. Thankfully there are many helpful resources available to you. The interventions listed above will get you started. However, to gain the most help for your child and family visit, www.autismspeaks.org to get linked up with community supports.
Further strategies are within reach!
The Building Blocks of Positive Parenting is our exclusive book that contains a wealth of interventions for autism spectrum disorder and other common childhood disorders and behavioral concerns.
You will also find that it is packed with guidance to help you achieve a solid and positive parenting foundation in your home!
The best part of this awesome book is that you don’t have to read the entire thing! You get to pick and choose what sections your family could benefit from the most. With all of the practical ideas, reproducible behavior systems, and time tested advice; it truly is the easiest to use resource manual available to parents today. ~Now that sounds like what parents can use as we juggle life’s many tasks!