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Autism FAQ

What is Autism?


What is Autism? “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.” - Autism Speaks Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability, meaning that the signs of autism we can observe come from underdevelopment or atypical development of the brain. With the latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for several different neurodevelopmental disabilities. If your child was previously diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), their diagnosis now falls under the ASD umbrella.




How is Autism Diagnosed?


How is Autism Diagnosed? The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disoders (DSM-V) provides the main criteria for diagnosing autism. In the current edition of the DSM, a child must present deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as display restricted and repetitive interests, behaviors, or activities in order to be diagnosed with autism. This can look very different from child to child and the new DSM uses a scale of severity within the diagnosis - representing the "spectrum".




What is the Autism Spectrum?


“The spectrum is like a tree with a variety of branches and leaves. Every leaf of autism is different and diverse."- Alyssa Wilkins At Dynamic Lynks, we think of the spectrum as less of a linear, mild to severe diagnostic tool and more like a tree with a variety of branches and leaves. Some children may be on one branch of the spectrum and be non-verbal, but have mild motor deficits and above-average intelligence. Another child may be on a different branch of the spectrum and have high sensory needs, but can communicate verbally while needing additional support for cognitive and academic skills. Each child is a leaf on a branch of the spectrum, and every leaf of autism is different and diverse.




What causes Autism?


What Causes Autism? Because each case of autism is so diverse, there is no one known cause of autism. There is a lot of fantastic research happening that investigates specific genes and proteins that may play a role in the development of autism. Unfortunately, many of these genes account for a minimal percent of autism cases around the world. One theory that has become increasingly popular in the autism community is the triple hit theory. This theory examines environmental factors, genetics, and the timing of exposure to an environmental toxin in the possible development of autism.




What does Autism look like?


Most children receive a diagnosis of ASD around 2 or 3 years of age, but there are warning signs that can point to autism as early as 6 months. These signs can be thought of as “yellow flags.” Just because your child, or a friend’s child, exhibits one of these behaviors does not mean they definitively have autism, but they are good to look out for throughout the course of development.

  • Lack of emotional reciprocity
    • Emotional reciprocity begins around 6 months of age and can be observed when you hear a baby crying at the sound of another baby crying. If you have ever been in a room with more than one baby, when one cries – they all cry. This is a precursor for future emotional development, which can be affected or impaired in children with ASD.
  • Limited joint attention skills
    • Joint attention can be seen as early as 9 – 18 months. Joint attention happens when two people focus their attention on the same object then shift their attention back to each other. Joint attention leads to future attention skills as well as social and cognitive skills.
  • Minimal vocalizing and babbling
    • Children often speak their first words around 12 months, but vocalizing and babbling can be seen even earlier in development. Children begin to use vocal play around 4 – 6 months and begin to babble between 6 – 11 months.
  • Struggling with eye contact
    • This is a common warning sign of autism. Eye contact is not just important for emotional bonding and social development, it is also critical in cognitive development. Lack of eye contact can translate to difficulty with visual tracking which leads to many cognitive and even motor/physical skills.
Early identification of these signs is crucial. Earlier understanding can lead to the opportunity for parents and practitioners to implement interventions and strategies to aid in future development for a child on the spectrum.




Who diagnosis autism?


The diagnosis of Autism Spectrium Disorder (ASD) is generally given by a neuropsychologist or clinical diagnostician after a comprehensive evalutation. You can ask your pediatrician to recommend a diagnostician, neuropsychologist, or autism specialist in your area. You can also search those key terms through your insurance company or online to see what locations are closest to you for diagnosis.




Autism, where should I start?


1. Contact your insurance company to let them know of your child’s recent diagnosis and determine what services they cover. Without a diagnosis, your insurance company will not cover many services in which you choose to enroll your child. 2. Reach out to local parent groups to find out the activities in your area as well as therapists, doctors, etc. that are most recommended. Having partners in this journey will make the whole process a lot easier. Having a team of people who have been there before is even better! 3. Find therapies that will benefit your child the most and meet their current functioning level. Common ASD therapies include ABA, OT, Speech, and Music Therapy.




Who treats autism?


Common autism treatments include ABA therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Music Therapy, and many more. There is not one therapy that is generally better than another, but there are specialties that can help meet your child’s needs most effectively. Trying to enroll your child in every therapy that someone suggests is just not possible for a majority of people out there. Try to focus on a few goal areas you most want your child to reach and then choose the therapeutic specialty that works on those skills. Creative Arts Therapists

  • Creative Arts Therapists use a creative medium (i.e., music, dance, art, drama) to work on functional skills in a variety of domains. They work on a wide range of skills in a very engaging way, giving you a combination of sensorimotor development, language development, behavior management, social and emotional skill acquisition, all in one session.
  • Though creative arts therapies are not often viewed as “traditional” therapies, they use scientific research and evidence-based practices to create interventions to work on a variety of skill areas. Some creative arts therapists accept insurance and your child’s sessions would be covered. Others are private pay only, but there is often a sliding scale option. Creative arts therapy sessions can cost between $50 and $150 an hour, depending on the therapist’s specialty and level of education.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • If you have a child diagnosed with autism, it is likely that you have heard of ABA. ABA targets functional skills in many domains such as language, imitation, play skills, social behavior, visual perception and teaching appropriate behaviors. ABA is usually implemented by a behavior interventionist who is overseen by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). BCBAs create goals and targeted interventions then track data to see how behaviors are improving.
  • ABA is generally very intensive and requires many hours a week of time commitment from both the child and the family. ABA is often covered by insurance companies, but if it is not, it can get very expensive. ABA can cost between $46,00 and $47,000 a year.
Speech Language Pathologists
  • Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) work with both verbal and non-verbal children on the autism spectrum. SLPs can provide techniques for communicating with your child such as Picture Exchange, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and many more. SLPs also work on reading and phonics skills, social communication, grammar, pragmatic speech and various other skills within the domain of communication.
  • Speech is another service that is often covered by insurance. If it is not, the cost of services can range from $100 - $250 an hour.
Occupational Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists (OTs) work on a variety of skills within the sensorimotor domain including fine motor and visual motor skills, spatial awareness, sensory processing, activities of daily living, and self-regulation.
  • OT is often covered by insurance, depending on your plan. OT can cost between $50 and $400 depending on the service provider and the facility where your child is receiving services.
Physical Therapists
  • Some children with autism have sensorimotor impairments that affect their fine and gross motor skills. PTs improve these functional areas by working on strength, range of motion, balance and functional mobility.
  • Physical Therapists work on these skills using different exercises and machines in a play-based way to engage children. PT can cost between $50 and $350 an hour, if not covered by insurance.





Music Therapy FAQ

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