Friday, November 13, 2009

Strategies and Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism is very likely neurological in origin – not emotional. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a medical diagnosis based on the behavioral criteria set forth in The Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition, Text Revision
(DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Prevalence figures vary but current data suggests 1:150 and is four times more prevalent in boys. There are no known racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. There is no relation to family income, or lifestyle. Autism impacts normal development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication skills, which results in difficulty communicating with others and relating to the outside world. Occasionally, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present.

Autism is one of the 5 Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) identified below. All have commonalities in communication and social deficits but differ in terms of severity.
1. Autistic Disorder- is characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play. It is usually apparent before age 3 and includes stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities.
2. Asperger Syndrome- is characterized by impairments in social interactions, and presence of restricted interests and activities. There is no clinically significant general delay in language and the chold exhibits average to above average intelligence.
3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)- is often referred to as "atypical autism." It is used when a child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there is severe and pervasive impairment in specified behaviors.
4. Rett’s Disorder- is a progressive disorder which, to date, has only occurred in girls. There is a period of normal development and then the loss of previously acquired skills. These include a loss of purposeful use of hands, which is replaced by repetitive hand movements. Onset usually begins between ages 1-4 years.
5. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder- is characterized by normal development for at least the first 2 years then significant loss of previously acquired skills.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Autistic individuals are very different from each other. “Autism” is still commonly used to refer to any of the 5 PDDs noted above.

ASD occurs in children of all levels of intelligence, from those who are gifted to those who have mental retardation. In general however, the majority of individuals with autism are also identified as having mental retardation whereby 75% exhibit cognitive assessment scores below 70 along with low adaptive behaviors or functional skills. Verbal and reasoning skills are usually the most problematic academic areas.

Individualization and early intervention are the keys for optimal academic and functional success. These interventions may include life skills, functional academics, vocational preparation, positive behavior support, social stories (music therapy?), and Lovaas model -Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

The Autism Internet Modules project is developing a series of 60 modules on diverse topics including: assessment and identification, characteristics, evidence-based practices and interventions, transition to adulthood, and employment. Module authors include experts on ASD from across the nation. The AIM platform is being designed for consistency with research on how adults learn. Information is presented at a universal reading level with activities providing support to those with introductory or advanced knowledge on ASD. These modules are available at no cost to any computer or digital telephone user. These modules have the potential to positively impact the educational, family, vocational, and medical communities - on a local and worldwide basis - and may alter the ways in which ASD training occurs.

The Autism Society and Autism Speaks are two of the nation’s leading autism organizations. Their missions are to improve the lives of all affected by autism. This is evidenced by efforts for increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. What Kind of World do You Want is a video community designed to "give back" by recognizing we are all connected to one another through our actions and therefore each person has the ability to make a difference. This is a core message of the Five For Fighting video "World."