ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder
An autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts an individual throughout their lifetime. Someone is born with ASD, although they may not receive a diagnosis until differences become more impactful and/or noticeable, depending on the severity of these differences. ASD, like other types of differences, tend to occur more often in families. This means that if one person in a family has ASD related differences, other people in the family may also have similar differences. ASD is often said to occur along a “spectrum”, which means that the way differences present can vary greatly from person to person, even those within the same family. These differences in presentation are likely impacted by a combination of genetics (genes) and environmental factors, although researchers continue to explore what impacts an individual's presentation, in general and with a spectrum model in mind. Since ASD occurs along a spectrum, differences in communication, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive patterns will be uniquely present in each person. Differences related to an autism spectrum disorder occur in two categories: 1) communication and social skills and 2) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
Communication and social skill differences can include:
Preference for solitary play
Lack of eye contact
Very direct eye contact
Aversion to displays of affection
Difficulties carrying on a back-and-forth conversation
Trouble making or keeping friends
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities can include
Hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to sensory input (e.g., seeking out or avoiding certain textures)
Strong preference for routine
Deep interest in one topic
Lining up or sorting items (instead of “playing” with them)
Remember that ASD occurs along a spectrum and the above are only examples of differences that may be present for an individual.
Treatment for ASD varies, depending on an individuals’ needs, and can include
Occupational therapy (e.g., to build fine motor skills, gross motor skills, improve reactivity to sensory stimuli, and/or build self-help skills like independent toileting and more)
Speech and language therapy (e.g., to learn and practice conversational skills)
Individual therapy (e.g., to build coping skills)
Group therapy (e.g., often to focus on social skills)
Medication, which can help support related symptoms (e.g., inattention, irritability, etc.). It is very important to note that there is no medication that treats communication and social differences or restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities
If you have concerns about your child’s social and communication skills, development (a specific area or in general), please reach out to your child’s physician to share your concerns. Early identification of differences is crucial to finding the right supports and interventions! There are a number of organizations within Minnesota (where Monarch Learning & Attention Center is located), as well as nationally, that support individuals who have ASD-related differences and their families.
Below are a few of our favorite organizations:
Autism Speaks has information and resources for individuals and families
Autism Society of Minnesota Support Groups Held Virtually
U of M Social Skills Groups is geared towards students with social and communication differences who are interested in building their social communication skills
Guiding Bright Minds has a two-part series focused on Finding Flexibility, Structure, and Support for families
Contact us with questions or to schedule an evaluation to help identify social differences.