What Parents Should Do
If you think your child has developmental delays and may be autistic, take action. Ask your pediatrician to screen your child for delays, with a special emphasis on social, communication, and emotional skills.
If your intuition was incorrect, you’ve lost nothing but an hour of time and a load of anxiety. If your child does, indeed, have developmental delays you’ve taken action promptly and can expect to quickly access resources and programs that can help him or her to overcome any challenges.
Bottom line, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking prompt action!
We Are Raising Awareness
Its important to realize that autism is simply more known about these days. Some of the education has been great! With the internet, we now have the opportunity to do research and find voices from autistic adults and other disability advocates who are reaching out to educate.
Some of it has been bad, see my post on Autism Speaks here. We also still have so far to go. We had to fight for A-Man to get a therapy evaluation because our pediatrician believed all of his behaviors were caused by bad parenting.
We still have people telling us that everyone is autistic now at the grocery store. We have some people believing that being autistic just means that youre quirky or weird because thats what theyve seen portrayed on their favorite tv shows, and other people believe that the only people who are really autistic are non-verbal and flapping their arms all the time because thats what theyve seen it portrayed as.
Either way, I would be willing to bet that 90% of people know about autism in some way, so they have the ability to learn more and potentially get diagnoses for themselves and their children. Its really hard to fight for a diagnosis when you dont know the diagnosis exists.
Any Form Of Autism Can Benefit From A Therapeutic Approach
Unnoticeable signs of autism can be detrimental to a childs wellbeing when caregivers neglect to investigate further. People with autism can be given strategies and support that can help them work alongside their condition and be successful while still being completely and utterly themselves.
Once you begin talking with professionals about your childs unique situation and any unexpected behaviors or occurrences, you can begin to understand him or her better. With support from clinicians and the community, you can provide conditions and strategies that encourage your child to have a less stressful, more fulfilling life.
If you think your child or a child in your life might have autism, take the first step toward seeing if they need extra care, attention, and support from you. Seek a diagnosis and support from professionals who use an evidence-based approach to achieve goals that help children thrive.
Therapeutic Pathways offers evidence-based autism treatment, including assessments post diagnosis for treatment purposes. Contact us today with concerns or for resources to help you determine if your child has ASD and the steps to take after receiving a diagnosis.
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Restricted Or Repetitive Patterns Of Behavior Or Activities
In addition to the communication and social issues mentioned above, autism also includes symptoms related to body movements and behaviors.
These can include:
- repetitive movements, like rocking, flapping their arms, spinning, or running back and forth
- lining objects, like toys, up in strict order and getting upset when that order is disturbed
- attachment to strict routines, like those around bedtime or getting to school
- repeating words or phrases they hear someone say over and over again
- getting upset over minor changes
- focusing intently on parts of objects, like the wheel of a toy truck or the hair of a doll
- unusual reactions to sensory input, like sounds, smells, and tastes
- obsessive interests
- exceptional abilities, like musical talent or memory capabilities
Large Head Size Is A Red Flag
Recent findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the brains of children with autism develop differently from an early age. Researchers discovered that most infants who were later diagnosed with autism had small head circumferences at birth but had heads and brains much larger than normal by 6 to 14 months. “Some of them went all the way up to the 90th percentile in just a few months,” says study coauthor Natacha Akshoomoff, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Those who ended up with the most severe form of autism were found to have the most dramatic acceleration of brain growth during infancy.
Pediatricians don’t always measure head circumference at well-baby visits, so it’s wise to request it. However, don’t panic if your baby’s head size is above the norm. Some babies just have big heads. “Rapid head growth is not a way to diagnose autism,” Dr. Akshoomoff points out, “but it means that a child should be watched closely to be sure that she meets speech and behavioral milestones.”
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Why Are Autism Rates Steadily Rising
Stefania Sterling with her son Charlie, who was diagnosed at age 3 with autism.
Stefania Sterling was just 21 when she had her son, Charlie. She was young and healthy, with no genetic issues apparent in either her or her husband’s family, so she expected Charlie to be typical.
“It is surprising that the prevalence of a significant disorder like autism has risen so consistently over a relatively brief period.”
It wasn’t until she went to a Mommy and Me music class when he was one, and she saw all the other one-year-olds walking, that she realized how different her son was. He could barely crawl, didn’t speak, and made no eye contact. By the time he was three, he was diagnosed as being on the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum.
She isn’t sure why it happened and researchers, too, are still trying to understand the basis of the complex condition. Studies suggest that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to Autism Spectrum Disorder . But rates of ASD are rising dramatically, making the need to figure out why it’s happening all the more urgent.
The Latest News
“It is surprising that the prevalence of a significant disorder like autism has risen so consistently over a relatively brief period,” said Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who was involved in collecting the data.
Searching for Answers
A Polarizing Theory
What Are The Current Regulations In The Uk
There are currently no regulations in place to ensure teachers in mainstream schools have qualifications and experience in teaching autistic children.
We contacted The Department of Education who could not give us any information in this area. We too contacted The Institute of Education at the University of London, who informed us that their teaching courses do not provide any training in teaching special needs children.
In order to have experience in teaching special needs children, teachers would have to go on to do a Masters degree in Special Needs.
Currently, the only regulation in place in the UK in mainstream schools is that every school must have a designated SENCO who will communicate the needs of the student to the relevant staff.
Dan Leighton, speaking on behalf of the National Autistic Society highlighted the issues: The problem is there is no initial teacher training in relation to teaching children with autism – this is not directly regulated by the Department of Education.
Leighton went on to say, Access to a specialist teacher is patchy, with relatively few local authorities providing autism advisory teachers for schools. It is the responsibility of the SENCOs and head teachers to ensure that staff have access to adequate training and expertise.
This highlights the lack of structure in the education given to autistic children – some head teachers and SENCOs may be more proactive than others.
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Why Too Many Children With Autism End Up In Foster Care
Listen to this story:
Foster care is intended as a temporary solution for children whose parents cannot care for them. At any one time, about half a million children in the United States are in foster homes.
Frank talk about policy issues in autism
The foster care system has a reputation as a place for children who are victims of abuse or neglect this reputation is only partially deserved. About half of children in foster homes have a chronic disability that can make caring for them difficult. In fact, many of these children enter foster care because they have complex medical needs that their families cannot manage, often because of limited resources.
When children enter the foster care system, they are automatically enrolled in Medicaid, and their foster parents receive funds for their care. As a result, this system is becoming a critical component of caring for children with disabilities.
We have found that children with autism are particularly likely to end up in the foster care system.
Long- and short-term outcomes for children in foster care are not good: Children who spend any amount of time in foster homes are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and more likely to end up homeless, in the criminal justice system or in long-term residential care.
A Variety Of Possibilities May Link Asd To The Male Brain
According to some researchers, the reason is that autism is an excessive expression of those aspects of brain development that are already pronounced in the male brain. The extreme male brain theory posits that it is an overdevelopment in the male traits of cognition that causes ASD patients to over-systematize, leading to a breakdown of verbal and social capacities.
Some studies have found correlations between fetal testosterone levels and ASD.
On the other hand, researchers in Canada in 2010 undertook a genetic study of ASD patients and found that around one percent of the males tested had a particular mutation in a certain gene on their X-chromosome. If the mutation were found to be linked to ASD it could explain some of the preponderance of ASD among boys.
And even more recently, scientists in Germany found a positive correlation between a thin cortex and the likelihood of an ASD diagnosis. Since women reliably have greater cortical thickness than men, this could indicate that the male brain is simply more vulnerable to whatever structural changes bring about ASD.
The search for a definitive answer as to why more boys than girls suffer from ASD is only one aspect of the larger search for the causes behind autism and is not likely to be resolved until that central mystery is itself cleared up.
In the meantime, for applied behavior analysts working with ASD patients, the likelihood that most of them will be boys isnt going to change anytime soon.
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What Doesnt Cause Autism
There was a bleak period in history from the 1950s to 1970s when autism was believed to be a psychological disorder, and blamed on cold, uncaring parents, usually the mothers.
Fortunately, the myth of the ârefrigerator motherâ has been debunked by science, and autism is now recognised as a disorder of brain development with genetic links. Nothing you said or did as a parent caused your child to develop autism, so please donât listen to anyone who suggests otherwise.
Scores of scientific studies have effectively ruled out vaccines as a cause of autism. Concerns originally arose around two issues of Mercury and the MMR Vaccine
In 2014, a meta-analysis, combining the result of 10 studies and over 1.2 million children, found no link between vaccines and autism. The World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading international health groups have also concluded thereâs no link. Unfortunately, the belief persists among anti-vaccination campaigners, who are very vocal on the Internet. If you remain concerned about vaccines, arrange a time to talk your paediatrician or GP. Remember, Vaccines Save Lives!
How Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Play
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to be less spontaneous than other kids. Unlike a typical curious little kid pointing to things that catch their eye, children with ASD often appear disinterested or unaware of whats going on around them. They also show differences in the way they play. They may have trouble with functional play, or using toys that have a basic intended use, such as toy tools or cooking set. They usually dont play make-believe, engage in group games, imitate others, collaborate, or use their toys in creative ways.
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Why Monitoring Developmental Milestones For Autism Can Be Misleading
Sometimes, children with autism miss multiple milestones and have clear and obvious developmental delays. Often, however, missed milestones can be masked or even invisible. This is because children with autism aren’t simply delayed they learn and behave differently from their typical peers.
In addition, autism is rarely obvious from birth. Many children with autism develop normally for a period of time and then either slow down, develop idiosyncratically, or actually regress. Because of these issues, it can be tough to spot autism just by watching for missed developmental milestones.
What Is The Prevalence Of Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder is found in all cultures and across all socio-economic groups. In the past 40 years, the prevalence rate of Autism has skyrocketed. In 2018, the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reported an estimated 1 out of every 59 children have ASD.
Why the increase? No one knows for sure. Some epidemiologists point to an increasing awareness of the disorder as a key contributing factor. In addition, the diagnostic criteria for autism has changed with time, reflecting the latest research evidence, and the revised criteria are broader and therefore have contributed to the increased number of children being diagnosed with autism. Others view the impact of environmental factors as a contributing cause. As more research is conducted, this question may soon be answered.
According to the CDC, boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls . Some experts have theorized that this ratio is misleading, however, pointing to the fact that girls are more likely to develop compensatory social mechanisms to mask their symptoms and, therefore, end up being misdiagnosed or fail to be diagnosed at all.
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When Missing Developmental Milestones May Suggest Autism
There are many reasons why children miss developmental milestones. In most cases, there’s no particular cause for concern. That’s because:
- Children are different from one another and, naturally, develop at different rates.
- Children who are born prematurely may miss milestones but usually catch up.
- Boys are often slower to develop than girls, but almost always catch up.
- Many children are so focused on certain milestones that they may miss others. For example, a very physically adept child may reach advanced physical milestones and then later catch up on social milestones.
- Early medical challenges may slow developmentbut most children are able to catch up to their same-age peers.
- Certain correctable challenges, such as difficulty with hearing, can slow early development but have little impact on long-term development.
So when should parents be concerned about autism? CDC provides a shortlist of issues that should raise red flags.
- Cant work simple toys
- Doesnt speak in sentences
- Doesnt understand simple instructions
- Doesnt make eye contact
- Loses skills he once had
While these issues can be signs of autism, however, they may not be. Autism is more likely when children have more than one of these issues or have other related issues in the social/emotional or communication realms.
What Is The Difference Between Autism And Adhd
Autism and ADHD are sometimes confused with one another.
Children with an ADHD diagnosis consistently have issues with fidgeting, concentrating, and maintaining eye contact with others. These symptoms are also seen in some autistic people.
Despite some similarities, ADHD is not considered a spectrum disorder. One major difference between the two is that people with ADHD do not tend to lack socio-communicative skills.
If you think your child may be hyperactive, talk with their doctor about possible ADHD testing. Getting a clear diagnosis is essential to ensure that your child is receiving the right support.
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Autistic Children And Developmental Milestones
A developmental milestone is a sign of typical child development. Children reach dozens of developmental milestones between birth and adulthood. Early milestones include social smiles, rolling over, and sitting up. Later milestones involve the acquisition of language, social, physical, and emotional skills, and intellectual abilities.
Children with autism tend not to reach all of their developmental milestones at the appropriate times. But that statement is a huge oversimplification of the reality because:
- Many autistic children reach early developmental milestones on time or early, but then lose ground.
- Most autistic children reach some of their developmental milestones on time or early, but reach others late or not at all.
- Some autistic children reach some of their developmental milestones extraordinarily early but reach others extraordinarily late.
- Children with autism can appear to gain important skillsbut in fact, be unable to use those skills in real-world situations.
- Many children with autism have so-called “splinter” skills, which can be very advanced but which are not useful in daily life.
- Autistic children, particularly girls who are high-functioning, are sometimes able to hide or overcome some developmental delays.
Is Autism On The Rise
Why the number of kids being diagnosed with autism is increasing.
Health Agenda magazineOctober 2017
When their son, Jack , was diagnosed with autism in 1999, Nicole and Ian Rogerson left the doctors office in shock. We just sat in the car, in the rain, and cried, Nicole recalls. All of a sudden we were facing this lifelong diagnosis. Jack was our first child we were so naive.
Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way people communicate and interact with others, and how they perceive the world. ASD has wide-ranging levels of severity, varying characteristics and shows up differently in every person. While ASD is often diagnosed around the age of 2, its symptoms may be subtle and a diagnosis can be given at any life stage.
Lacking information about what she could do to help her son, Nicole threw herself into researching autism. As there was nothing else available to her at the time, she spent 20 to 30 hours a week designing and delivering an ad-hoc early intervention program to help Jack with his learning difficulties. Jack, now 21, has just finished an apprenticeship and started a full-time job as a chef.
Im very good at my job, he says, and the head chef Simon says Im improving all the time. Its hard work but I like it.
Are autism diagnoses increasing?
Autism diagnosis methods
Acting on symptoms of autism
Nicole Rogerson now encourages parents to act as soon as they can if they suspect their child has autism.
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