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Autism Therapy

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lifespan offers comprehensive services designed to help those on the spectrum lead happy and healthy lives. With our expert team by your side, you can feel confident that you are getting the care you need.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (aka Autism, ASD) is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition, while other causes are not yet known. Research suggests there are multiple causes of ASD that act together that affect the ways people develop. ASD refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and differences in speech and nonverbal communication. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.

Autism in Teens and Adults

A greater number of children identified with ASD has led to a growing interest in the transition to adolescence and adulthood. For most young people, including those with ASD, adolescence and young adulthood are filled with new challenges, responsibilities, and opportunities. However, research suggests fewer people with ASD have the same opportunities as their peers without ASD, including:

  • High rates of unemployment or under-employment

  • Low participation in education beyond high school

  • The majority continue to live with family members or relatives

  • Limited opportunity for community or social activities—nearly 40% spend little or no time with friends 

 

In addition, individuals with ASD may experience variability in symptoms, behaviors, and co-occurring health conditions during adolescence and young adulthood. These changes can affect their ability to function and thrive.

What does ASD look like?

An individual with Autism may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from other people. There is typically nothing about how an individual with ASD looks that sets them apart from other people. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversation skills whereas others may be nonverbal. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others can work and live with little to no support.

Because ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition, those on the spectrum are born this way. While no one on the spectrum can "develop" it in their life, some symptoms and challenges may improve over time. Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months of age or later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet developmental milestones until around 18 to 24 months of age, and then stop developing new skills or lose the skills they once had (e.g., regression).

As children with ASD become adolescents and young adults, they may have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job. They may seek the attention of healthcare providers because they may struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, all of which co-occur more often for those on the autism spectrum.

What are some signs and symptoms?

Social Communication and Interaction Skills - typical or expected social communication and interaction can be difficult for those with ASD

  • Avoiding/difficulty keeping eye contact

  • Not responding to name by 9 months

  • Not showing facial expressions by 9 months

  • Not playing simple interactive games for 12 months

  • Few or no gestures by 12 months (e.g., waving)

  • Not sharing interests with others by 15 months (e.g., showing you something they like)

  • Not pointing to show you something interesting in 18 months

  • Not noticing when others are hurt or upset by 24 months

  • Not noticing other children and joining them in play by 36 months

  • Not pretending to be something else (e.g., teacher or superhero) during play by 48 months

  • Not singing, dancing, or acting by 60 months

 

Restricted or Repetitive Behaviors or Interests - Those with ASD can have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual

  • Lining up toys or other objects and getting upset when order is changed

  • Repeating words or phrases over and over (“echolalia”)

  • Playing with toys the same way every time

  • Focusing on parts of objects (e.g., wheels)

  • Getting upset by minor changes

  • Having obsessive interests

  • Needing to follow certain routines

  • Flapping hands, rocking body, or spinning self in circles

  • Having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, feel

 

Other Characteristics

  • Delayed language skills

  • Delayed movement skills

  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills

  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior

  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder

  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits

  • Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., constipation)

  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions

  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry

  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected

 

It is important to note that individuals with ASD may not have all or any of the behaviors listed as examples here, and it is important that they be evaluated by a professional (i.e., psychologist, developmental specialist) to receive accuracy in diagnosis.

 

Diagnosis

Identifying autism can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose it. Psychologists or developmental specialists evaluate history, behavior, and development to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months of age or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered reliable. However, many people do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older. Some people are not diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood. This delay in identification means that people with ASD might not get the early help they need and may struggle needlessly throughout their lives.

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