What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in behavior management skills (e.g., repetitive behaviors, rigid behaviors, etc.), communication skills, or social skills, and is often observed in early childhood. For individuals with Autism, early identification is key! Some early identification signs include: a lack or delay in spoken language, repetitive use of language or motor movements, little to no eye contact, lack of interest in peers, lack of spontaneous or pretend play, or persistent fixation of parts of objects.
Autism is diagnosed through developmental screening and through a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Developmental screenings should take place during each doctor visit at 9 months old, 18 months old, and 24 months old. Developmental screenings are shorter tests that are utilized to determine if your child is learning basic skills and meeting developmental milestones or if delays are present. If a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is recommended, this will include a thorough review of the child’s behavior and development, as well as a parent interview in order to gather more information.
How is Autism Treated?
Autism is primarily treated through using evidence-based practices associated with Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA is applied to Autism through methodologies such as: Pivotal Response Treatment, Discrete Trial Training, or Natural Environment Training. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is a naturalistic intervention that targets pivotal areas of a child’s development as opposed to targeting individual behaviors. These may include motivation, self-management, or social initiations. Next, Discrete Trial Training (DTT) includes breaking down a target skill into smaller skills that are taught one at a time. Finally, Natural Environment Training (NET) is utilized to facilitate language learning moments by using incidental opportunities and the child’s interests to guide the session.