What is Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or “autism,” refers to a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in a variety of ways. One of the challenges that arises with autism is the unique way each individual is impacted, resulting in a “spectrum” of strengthens and challenges that often manifest very differently from person to person. Generally, autism is characterized by difficulties with communication and social behavior, repetitive behaviors, insistence on sameness or resistance to change, and differences that are often unique to each individual. Research has demonstrated that there are many types of spectrum disorders ranging from mild to significantly impactful.
Autism is growing at an alarming rate, such that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled the explosion of autism as a public health crisis. Recently, the CDC reported that about 1 in 59 children are identified with an autism—this represents a 15 percent increase over previous estimates of autism prevalence from 2010 and 2012. Here in Mississippi, some have estimated that as many as 11,000 children and adolescents may be affected by autism.
There is hope—effective solutions are available to help children with autism thrive and achieve more. One of the most celebrated approaches involves intensive therapy grounded in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The Surgeon General of the United States, and the CDC, have both endorsed ABA as “best practice” in the treatment of autism. Multiple groups, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Autism Center, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Autism Society of America, and the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association to name a few, have all endorsed ABA as an evidenced-based effective treatment for the core features of autism.
Research has also illustrated four critical factors in the effective use of ABA therapy. First, early identification matters. The earlier the onset of treatment, the better the outcomes. Second, the intensity of treatment matters. The best outcomes have consistently been documented for children receiving 20-40 hours per week of intensive behavioral intervention. Third, the duration of treatment matters. The best outcomes are typically seen in children who receive services for two or more years. Finally, where treatment occurs matters. The best results are typically seen when treatment is delivered across multiple settings, including clinic settings, home, community, and school.
At Canopy Children’s Solutions, we offer families intensive therapeutic solutions through our Early Intervention Autism Clinics currently in Hattiesburg and Jackson and educational support through our CARES Day Schools in Hattiesburg and Jackson.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Every child is different, and every child develops at his or her own pace. However, there are specific developmental milestones that all children should be reaching by specific ages. If your child is not meeting milestones, or you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s doctor. Some milestones include:
- Not responding to their name by 12 months of age
- Not pointing at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Lack of interest in playing “pretend” games (pretending to “feed” a doll) or imitating by 18 months
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Trouble understanding other people’s feelings (empathy)
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Providing unrelated answers to questions
- Getting upset by minor changes
- Obsessive interests
- Flapping their hands, rocking their body, or spinning in circles
- Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
If you are concerned about your child’s development, discuss these concerns with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Research shows that the earlier a child begins to receive intervention treatments, not only for autism but also physical, emotional or developmental disorders, the better the long-term outcome of the child.
If your child has received an autism diagnosis, contact one of our Care Coordinators at 800-388-6247 to discuss what solutions are most appropriate for your child.