Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social interaction, empathy, communication, and flexible behavior. But the level of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person. In fact, two kids with the same diagnosis may look very different when it comes to their behaviors and abilities.
If youre a parent dealing with a child on the autism spectrum, you may hear many different terms including high-functioning autism, atypical autism, autism spectrum disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. These terms can be confusing, not only because there are so many, but because doctors, therapists, and other parents may use them in dissimilar ways.
But no matter what doctors, teachers, and other specialists call the autism spectrum disorder, its your childs unique needs that are truly important. No diagnostic label can tell you exactly what challenges your child will have. Finding treatment that addresses your childs needs, rather than focusing on what to call the problem, is the most helpful thing you can do. You dont need a diagnosis to start getting help for your childs symptoms.
Whats in a name?
How Does An Autistic Spectrum Disorder Affect People
As a spectrum disorder, the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a variety of combinations, ranging from extremely mild to severe. All children and adults with an ASD will have the following core symptoms in what is known as the triad of impairments:
1.;Non-verbal and verbal communication
- People with an ASD have difficulty in understanding the communication and language of others, and in communicating themselves.
- Many children are delayed in learning to speak and a small minority do not develop much functional speech. This does not mean they cannot communicate, as they use other methods to communicate their needs.
- People with an ASD tend to have a literal understanding of language, so the use of metaphors such as its raining cats and dogs should be avoided.
2.;Social understanding and social behaviour
- People with an ASD have difficulty understanding the social behaviour of others and can behave in socially inappropriate ways.
- People with an ASD have difficulty empathising with others, and as a result are unable to read social contexts.
- Children with an ASD often find it hard to play and communicate with other children, because of their difficulties with empathy.
3.;Imagining and thinking/behaving flexibly
Autism And Learning Disabilities
Autism Spectrum Disorder can share many traits with, or occur alongside learning disorders, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. The same is true of non-verbal learning disorders, which may affect a childs academic and social skills. As many as 10 percent of children have some kind of learning disorder.
Autism Spectrum Disorder can have profound effects on a childs development. Because of autisms wide range of behavioral and cognitive presentations, different children with the condition can encounter a wide variety of challenges. One child with ASD may excel in rote memorization, yet struggle with understanding more complicated ideas. Another may encounter significant challenges with learning to speak, or issues with reading or writing.
Other conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder , can contribute to these same kinds of learning disorders or mimic them. Making sense of the interaction and differences between and among all of these conditions can be difficult. Knowledge of these conditions, however, is important in understanding your childs learning difficulties and how to address them with the proper treatment modalities.
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Common Characteristics Of Autism Spectrum Disorder And Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are lifelong disorders. It means that with the treatment they dont go away, you can only reduce the effects of the symptoms. They are diagnosed in childhood as well as autism. diagnosed in childhood like autism spectrum disorder. We know that autism affects people in different ways, so we can say that learning disabilities affect all individuals in different ways.
They share common difficulties. For example, these difficulties include adapting behaviors to different circumstances, having interactions with other people and controlling behavior.
Mental health professionals and scientists have found genetic differences in both autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities making it likely that the two conditions are related.
Both autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities share some common characteristics. These overlapping symptoms make both ASD and learning difficulties to diagnose. Example of some common characteristics;
- ASD and learning disabilities are lifelong conditions.
- There is no cure for both ASD and learning disabilities.
- Both ASD and learning disabilities have a significant impact on an individuals life.
- Early detection and intervention are essential in both ASD and learning disabilities.
- Prominent symptoms of ASD such as sensory processing issues, emotional dysregulations, meltdowns, tantrums and troubles with social skills are also common in learning disabilities.
What Does Autism Mean
According to WebMD, the name autism comes from autos, the Greek word for self and references a condition in which the patient is an isolated self. A Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, was the first to use the term in this context referring to a group of symptoms related to schizophrenia. Then in the 1940s, American researchers began using it when describing young children with emotional problems that affected social behavior. Dr. Leo Kanner from Johns Hopkins University also used the term to explain the behavior of some children he was studying who were severely withdrawn. 2
Between 1943 and 2013 various forms of autism were diagnosed and named including Aspergers syndrome; Pervasive Developmental Disorder , Not Otherwise Specified and Hellers Syndrome or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder . Then, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that put all of these conditions under a single diagnosis referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder . Under this revised definition, there were two areas that determined diagnosis: social communication/ interaction and restricted and repetitive behavior. 3
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one in every 68 children in the U.S. has been identified as having ASD. The disorder affects children of every race, ethnic group and socioeconomic background and is five times more common among boys than among girls.4
When Do You Notice The Signs Of Autism
While you might notice some of the signs of autism in the first few years of your child’s life, it;may only be when they are at school, or even when they are an adult, that a diagnosis is made.;
Sometimes an autism diagnosis is delayed because health professionals want to be certain before;they make a diagnosis. In other cases, a delayed diagnosis might be because the signs of autism go undetected, especially if they present in a more subtle way .
More boys than girls are diagnosed with autism, and there is an ongoing debate about whether;this is for genetic reasons or because the process of diagnosis tends to pick up autistic traits more;common in boys, and the possibility that this is leaving some girls undiagnosed.
Other Disorders That Make Learning Difficult
Difficulty in school doesnt always stem from a learning disability. Anxiety, depression, stressful events, emotional trauma, and other conditions affecting concentration make learning more of a challenge. In addition, ADHD and autism sometimes co-occur or are confused with learning disabilities.
ADHD Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , while not considered a learning disability, can certainly disrupt learning. Children with ADHD often have problems sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organized, and completing homework.
Autism Difficulty mastering certain academic skills can stem from pervasive developmental disorders such as autism and Aspergers syndrome. Children with autism spectrum disorders may have trouble communicating, reading body language, learning basic skills, making friends, and making eye contact.
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About The School Health For Children And Adolescents Specialization
Children and adolescents spend so much of their time in school regardless of where they live in the world. Health and learning are closely connected in the school setting, where good health and healthy practices create the optimal conditions for studentsâ academic success. And the contrary is also true: poor heath and unhealthy practices build tall barriers to student learning.
The courses of this specialization are designed to equip learners to manage common health conditions including asthma, allergies, diabetes, and seizures. Next they will learn to manage common behavior conditions such as ADHD and autism as well as learning disabilities and concussion. Upon completion of the specialization, learners will be ready to apply newly acquired skills in the provision of social, emotional, behavioral, and special education services. Importantly, they will also be ready to promote healthy practices such as nutrition, physical activity, and community and family participation in their own school community.In pediatric healthcare we do everything possible to ensure the health of children and adolescents but there can be no greater impact on a childâs health than receiving optimal health condition management and healthy practices in school.
How The Adult Autism Learning Center Can Help
The Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning is the first of its kind.
Since there is a gap in the resources and services provided to adults with autism, our adult learning center developed specialized programs to offer continued support. Through ABA programming and hands-on learning, we remain committed to lifelong learning. Taking an individualized approach, our programs help adults with autism develop the skills they need to live a more independent life.
We do not view autism as a disability. Instead, we help each client become the best possible version of themselves, focusing on their unique skills and goals.
We understand how autism affects learning, which is why we invest in a person-centered approach. We address each individuals barriers, encouraging ongoing learning. The goal is to help adults with autism work, learn, and play in their communities.
Our day programs cover a wide range of areas, helping our clients develop the skills they need to thrive. From social and leisure skills to academics and fitness education, we know the difference consistent, structured support can have regardless of ones age.
Ready to discuss the next steps? Please contact the Adult Autism Center to take advantage of ongoing education and support today!
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Factors Affecting Response To Reinforcement
On the whole behavioral treatments appear to be beneficial, however, individuals vary in their response to these programs . Several studies have sought to identify profiles or characteristics of individuals that predict improvements in IQ, adaptive behavior and social communication in response to treatment. Some, but not all , studies have identified pre-treatment IQ as a predictor of successful outcomes, with more impaired children showing less improvement . Children who show greater initial social responsiveness, language skills and approach behaviors toward both adults and toys have also been shown to benefit more . Starting intensive treatment at an earlier age has also been suggested to lead to greater gains .
Implications For Treatment And Questions For Future Research
Despite the obvious connection between RL and behavioral therapies, few studies have examined whether response to reinforcement, or learning characteristics, are predictive of treatment outcomes . However, such work could pave the way for modifying protocols to improve outcomes for children who are ânon-responders.â Indeed, variation in learning and motivation could be used to define subgroups of individuals to whom targeted interventions could be provided .
Functional imaging results in ASD hint at a disconnection between the desire to obtain a reward and its hedonic effects, as has been suggested in disorders such as addiction , depression and schizophrenia . Indeed, given the potential similarities in abnormal learning processes across psychiatric diagnoses, this could be a useful cross-diagnostic research domain within the Research Domain Criteria . In individuals with major depression, pharmacological manipulation of dopamine has been shown to improve learning , a strategy that could be tested in treatment-resistant individuals with ASD.
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Language Communication And Autism
Many autistic children develop language skills at a different rate and in a different order from typically developing children. This means they might not understand what you say to them or might have difficulty following instructions. Some autistic children can find it difficult to use spoken language to ask for things, or tell other people what theyre thinking or feeling.
Differences in communication can make social situations like playing with other children a little more difficult.
Learning In The Context Of Aversive Conditioning
While teaching with rewards rather than punishment is emphasized in contemporary behavioral interventions , studies of learning in an aversive context may nonetheless provide insight into atypical associative learning mechanisms. These studies also provide insight into the formation of Pavlovian associations in ASD. Studies reviewed in this section are detailed in Table 2.
Table 2. Participant characteristics of reviewed ASD studies in section Learning in the Context of Aversive Conditioning.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder Implications For Learning
People with ASD often face great challenges in a postsecondary educational environment. People who have these conditions have a strong need for predictability, marked by rigidity in thought, speech, and behaviour, and may become totally overwhelmed and respond angrily if expectations are changed or if assignments are altered. Research by Fleischer suggests that instructors should be as clear as possible when communicating expectations, and should try to stick to the syllabus and to other agreed-upon arrangements as much as possible so as to lessen chances of students becoming upset and overwhelmed.
Van Hees, Moyson, and Roeyers observed that socialization presents immense challenges for people with ASD. Interpersonal relations are often an area of marked impairment for people who have ASD. People with ASD often have difficulty reading social cues, understanding sarcasm, or negotiating differences of perspective. Instructors should be cautious when requiring group work, as a student who has ASD may have great difficulty participating in such activities.
Reinforcement Learning In Autism Spectrum Disorder
- 1Child and Adolescent Imaging Research Program, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 2Behaviour and the Developing Brain, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 3Department of Neuroscience, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 4Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 5Department of Radiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 6Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 7Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
- 8Educational Psychology, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
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Signs And Symptoms Of Learning Disabilities: Preschool Age
- Problems pronouncing words.
- Trouble finding the right word.
- Difficulty rhyming.
- Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, or days of the week.
- Difficulty following directions or learning routines.
- Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors, or coloring within the lines.
- Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, or learning to tie shoes.
What Disorders Are Related To Asd
Certain known genetic disorders are associated with an increased risk for autism, including Fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis each of which results from a mutation in a single, but different, gene. Recently, researchers have discovered other genetic mutations in children diagnosed with autism, including some that have not yet been designated as named syndromes. While each of these disorders is rare, in aggregate, they may account for 20 percent or more of all autism cases.
People with ASD also have a higher than average risk of having epilepsy. Children whose language skills regress early in life before age 3 appear to have a risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. About 20 to 30 percent of children with ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. Additionally, people with both ASD and intellectual disability have the greatest risk of developing seizure disorder.
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How Is Autism Treated
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can substantially improve those symptoms. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the individual. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Early behavioral/educational interventions have been very successful in many children with ASD. In these interventions therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as applied behavioral analysis, which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones. In addition, family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder Vs Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a wide range of symptoms that sometimes overlap with signs of other neurodevelopmental disorders and learning disorders. While they may involve similar therapeutic approaches, diagnoses like Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder are separate conditions. Most children who meet the criteria for ASD also meet the criteria for NVLD, but the opposite doesnt appear to be true.;
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Signs And Symptoms Of Learning Disabilities And Disorders
If youre worried, dont wait
If you suspect that your childs learning difficulties may require special assistance, please do not delay in finding support. The sooner you move forward, the better your childs chances for reaching their full potential.
Learning disabilities look very different from one child to another. One child may struggle with reading and spelling, while another loves books but cant understand math. Still another child may have difficulty understanding what others are saying or communicating out loud. The problems are very different, but they are all learning disorders.
Its not always easy to identify learning disabilities. Because of the wide variations, there is no single symptom or profile that you can look to as proof of a problem. However, some warning signs are more common than others at different ages. If youre aware of what they are, youll be able to catch a learning disorder early and quickly take steps to get your child help.
The following checklists offer some common red flags for learning disorders. Remember that children who dont have learning disabilities may still experience some of these difficulties at various times. The time for concern is when there is a consistent unevenness in your childs ability to master certain skills.