Autism (and Asperger Syndrome)
There are five disorders classified under the umbrella category officially known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders, or PDD. These are:
In 2010, the American Psychiatric Association released draft revisions to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) expected to be published in May 2013. When published, the DSM-5 is expected to affect how autism and associated disorders are diagnosed. Please be aware of these changes and check this website and other recommended websites below as this publication is released for the most up to date information about the diagnosis of autism and related syndromes. (NICHCY, 2010)
Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines autism as...
“…a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term autism does not apply if the child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance as defined in IDEA. A child who shows the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria are able to be satisfied.”
[34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.8(c)(1, 2, and 3).]
About 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from the CDC. ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. They are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252). Studies in Asia, Europe, and North American have identified individuals with an ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. (CDC, 2012).
The causes of autism and the other disorders on the spectrum are not known. Researchers are currently studying such areas a neurological damage and chemical imbalances within the brain. ASDs tend to occur more often in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions. Children born with older parents are at a higher risk for ASDs. ASDs commonly co-occurs with other developmental, neurologic, chromosomal, and genetic diagnoses. (NICHCY, 2010 & CDC, 2012).
Since the cause of ASDs is unknown, means of prevention are also unknown. After much research, govenment health authorities can find no link between vaccines and autism. (NICHCY, 2010).
Some or all of the following characteristics of autism or PDD may be observed in mild to severe forms:
Children with ASDs vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak; others have language that often includes repeated phrases or conversations. Children with more advanced language skills tend to use a small range of topics and have difficulty with abstract concepts. Repetitive play skills, a limited range of interests, and impaired social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information—for example, loud noises, lights, certain textures of food or fabrics—are also common. (NICHCY, 2010)
Characteristics specific to Asperger Syndrome: The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors. Other characteristics of AS include repetitive routines or rituals; peculiarities in speech and language; socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers; problems with non-verbal communication; and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements.
Children with AS are isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. They may approach other people, but make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior, or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest. Children with AS usually have a history of developmental delays in motor skills such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment. They are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy. (NINDS, 2012)
There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better. (NINDS, 2012)
The ideal treatment for AS coordinates therapies that address the three core symptoms of the disorder: poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. There is no single best treatment package for all children with AS, but most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. It may include social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication for co-existing conditions, and other measures. (NINDS, 2012)
For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems. Parents of these children should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed. (NINDS, 2012)
With effective treatment, children with AS can learn to cope with their disabilities, but they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with AS are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life. (Source: NINDS)
In addition to academic structure, special education programs for students with ASDs focus on improving communication, social, academic, behavioral and daily living skills. Behavior and communication problems that interfere with learning often require the assistance of a professional who is particularly knowledgeable in the autism field to develop and help implement a plan which can be carried out at home and school. (NICHCY, 2010).
The classroom environment should be structured so that the program is consistent and predictable. Students with ASD learn better and are less confused when information is presented visually as well as verbally. Interaction with nondisabled peers is also important, for these students provide models of appropriate language, social, and behavioral skills. Consistency and continuity are very important for children with an ASD, and parents should always be involved in the development of their child's program, so that learning activities, experiences, and approaches will be most effective and can be carried over into the home and community. (NICHCY, 2010).
Specific strategies for teachers and parents can be found on the NICHCY website related to ASDs:www.nichcy.org/disability/specific/autism
P.O. Box 429
Forest Knolls, CA 94933
The Autism National Committee (AUTCOM) is the only autism advocacy organization dedicated to "Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism" through a shared vision and a commitment to positive approaches. The organization was founded in 1990 to protect and advance the human rights and civil rights of all persons with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and related differences of communication and behavior. In the face of social policies of devaluation, which are expressed in the practices of segregation, medicalization, and aversive conditioning, we assert that all individuals are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse, NY 13235-5448
Autism Network International is an autistic-run self-help and advocacy organization for autistic people. ANI provides a forum for autistic people to share information, peer support, and tips for coping and problem-solving. The organization advocates for appropriate services and civil rights for ALL autistic people and provides a social outlet for autistic people to explore and participate in autistic social experiences. ANI also helps autistic people who are unable to participate directly by providing information and referrals for parents and teachers, and by educating the public about autism.
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
The Autism Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization, was established in 1967. ARI is primarily devoted to conducting research, and to disseminating the results of research, on the causes of autism and on methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating autism and other severe behavioral disorders of childhood. We provide information based on research to parents and professionals throughout the world.
7910 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814-3067
301-657-0881 800-3AUTISM (328-8476)
Since 1965, the Society has grown from a handful of parents, into the leading source of information, research and reference on autism. ASA is the oldest and largest grassroots organization within the autism community. ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues face by individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals with whom they interact. The Society and its chapters share a common mission of providing information and education, and supporting research and advocating for programs and services for the autism community. In addition to their national office, ASA has many local branches throughout the country. Use the website to identify an ASA chapter in your area.
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN 46308
The Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS) center has joined with MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome to provide information and advice to families of more advanced individuals with Autism, Asperger syndrome, and Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Through its quarterly newletter, The MAAP, the organization provides the opportunity for parents and professionals to network with others in similar circumstances to learn about more advanced individuals within the autism spectrum.
20 Alice Agnew Drive
Attleboro Falls, MA 02763
The mission of the National Autism Association is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential.
9 Aspen Circle
Edison, NJ 08820
A national non-profit organization headquartered in New Jersey that provides education and support to families and individuals affected with Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, High Functioning Autism, and related disorders.
The purpose of the Autism Education Network is to provide information and training to families and professionals regarding best practices in autism treatment.
TalkAutism is a communication service shared by many organizations to access a common database of resource directories, distance learning library, and special message boards.
First Signs, Inc., is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating parents and professionals about autism and related disorders. Their website includes many resources covering a range of issues: from monitoring development, to concerns about a child; from the screening and referral process to sharing concerns.
Run by parents, for parents, AutismWeb's goals is to provide information on autism spectrum disorders, teaching methods, special education, treatments, therapies, services, research, online resources, training workshops, and conferences.
Autism One is a nonprofit organization 501(c)(3) started by a small group of parents of children with autism to address three areas: education, advocacy, and fundraising.
Created by The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, KidsHealth provides families with accurate, up-to-date, and jargon-free health information they can use. KidsHealth has separate areas for kids, teens, andparents- each with its own design, age-appropriate content, and tone. There are literally thousands of in-depth features, articles, animations, games, and resources - all original and all developed by experts in the health of children and teens.
The Kids' Quests are designed for students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Parents and teachers can modify the materials to meet students' learning styles and levels. The Quests can be used in lessons about health, social studies, and tolerance in society. Although students could do a Quest entirely on their own, we suggest that parents and teachers work with students to share ideas, talk about issues raised, and encourage students to reflect about themselves and others.
Created by Child and Youth Health, this web site allows children ages 6 to 12 years old to research health topics such as autism and Asperger Syndrome.