Published on March 27, 2014
Autism 101: An Introduction to Understanding Autism
What is Autism?
“Autism is a disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.” ~ Autism Society of Northern Virginia
The Autism Spectrum Severely Affected High Functioning There are similarities found across the spectrum including: - Difficulty in communications - Deficits in social functioning - Restricted interests - Repetitive behaviors Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it can range in severity and won’t look exactly the same in any two people with autism
Basic Facts About Autism o Lifelong developmental disorder o Genetic link, can run in families o More common in males than females (nearly five times more common) o Looks different at different ages o Can co-occur with other diagnoses (this is called co-morbidity) o Early intervention is important o Children and adults can learn and improve o Impact of ASD varies o Autism is the fastest- growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. o Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
Understanding the Numbers: An Increase in Prevalence Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC 1990- 1 in 2,500 2000- 1 in 250 2005- 1 in 166 2010- 1 in 110 2012 – 1 in 88 2013- 1 in 50* (projected) 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 1990 2000 2005 2010 2012 2013 Percent of Population Diagnosed with Autism
What Causes Autism?
Possible Causes of Autism • Right now, not everyone agrees on what causes autism. • Possible causes that people have suggested include genetics, unusual neural (brain) development, environmental factors, bad parenting, traumatic childhood experiences, and vaccines • Most researchers agree that autism definitely is partly genetic, meaning that if you have autism, it’s more likely that your children or your siblings will also have autism. No one is sure exactly how strong the link is, or details about how it works. • We encourage you to learn the facts for yourself and then form your own opinion! • More research is definitely needed.
What we DO know for sure is that individuals with autism, their families, and their communities need: SUPPORT RESOURCES ACCEPTANCE KNOWLEDGE UNDERSTANDING FUNDING & MEDICAL ASSISTANCE THERAPY AND BEHAVIORAL HELP THAT’S SHOWN TO WORK This is what ASNV strives to provide. We especially think that more work should be done to find more effective, safe, inexpensive, local, and easily available therapy to support individuals in achieving their goals.
Why is Autism Becoming More Common?
Why is Autism Becoming More Common? o Better awareness: doctors and parents think to have children and adults evaluated o Better diagnostic tools: We have a better understanding of how to tell if someone has autism o Other proposed theories: o Awareness has caused autism to be over-diagnosed o Environmental changes have caused an increase
The Importance of Early Detection American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for all children Developmental Screen - 9, 18, & 30 months Autism Screen - 18 & 24 months “Pediatricians could diagnose children with autism earlier by asking parents to fill out a simple, five-minute checklist when they take their babies in for their first-year checkups.” (Journal of Pediatrics, April 27, 2011) The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier supports can be provided! A lot of frustration, worry, social discomfort, and exclusion can be avoided.
Possible Signs of Autism o Avoids eye contact o Stares at lights, ceiling fans, hands o Prefers “dangly” things to toys o Repetitive body movements, flapping o Unusual vocalizations o Inappropriate laughing or giggling o Doesn’t smile back o Spins objects or self o Doesn’t want to be cuddled Every individuals shows different symptoms, and having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the person has autism. It’s very important to get an official diagnosis from a licensed professional! Warning!
Possible Signs of Autism o No fear of danger o Doesn’t seem to feel pain o Doesn’t respond to his/her name (can appear deaf) o Sustained, unusual or repetitive play o Prefers to play alone o Prefers objects to people o Meltdowns o Eats only a small selection of foods and resists new foods o Stuffs mouth with food Every individuals shows different symptoms, and having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the person has autism. It’s very important to get an official diagnosis from a licensed professional! Warning!
Possible Signs of Autism o Stops using speech or sign language (regressive autism) o May be non-verbal or hyper-verbal o Echoes words or phrases (echolalia) o Thinks literally, uses literal language o May not understand joking or sarcasm o Strong responses to pain, sound, light, smell temperature or touch o Insists on routine, sameness o Great difficulty with transitions o Restricted interests Every individuals shows different symptoms, and having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the person has autism. It’s very important to get an official diagnosis from a licensed professional! Warning!
Possible Signs of Autism o Extreme giftedness o Socially awkward o Does not pick up on social cues o Anxious, agitated, withdrawn, de pressed o Obsessive/Compulsive o Sleep problems o Aggressiveness/rages o Self injury Every individuals shows different symptoms, and having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the person has autism. It’s very important to get an official diagnosis from a licensed professional! Warning!
How Are We Doing in Virginia? o In 2012, Virginia ranked 17th in cases of ASD (HeadStartVA.org) o VA ranks 47th on disability inclusion, which includes everything from spending to community involvement (United Cerebral Palsy, 2011 data) o VA ranks 12th in state spending on special education (Census Bureau, 2011) o Per-pupil spending shows a different story: VA spends less than $12,000 per pupil, ranking 27th among the states (for comparison, DC spends over $29,000, Census Bureau, 2011) o So does spending as a percentage of income – VA spends less than $40 on special education per $1,000 of personal income, ranking 46th o 43rd in per pupil spending if adjusted for regional cost differences (Ed Week, 2014 Quality Counts, 2010-11 data)
10 Completely Ridiculous Myths about People with Autism All people with autism 1. Are savants (Rainman stereotype) 2. Don’t have feelings, have no empathy 3. Don’t build relationships, can’t get married or have families 4. Are violent and a danger to society 5. Have no language skills 6. Can’t have jobs 7. Can’t go to school or be in standard classrooms 8. Are entirely dependent on a caretaker 9. Are miserable and suffering 10. Need help and want a cure for autism The truth? Every person with autism is a unique individual. Everyone has different needs, wants, abiliti es, strengths, lifestyl es, and goals.
Famous People with Autism Dan Akroyd John Elder Robison Daryl Hannah
Famous People with Autism An author, inventor, and speaker, Dr. Grandin is probably the most well- known person with autism on the planet. She routinely speaks at autism conferences and has written several books both about her autism and about animals, which she loves. Dr. Grandin is a professor at CSU, has written many books, and had an HBO movie made about her life.
How to Support an Individual with Autism
Build Rapport One of the best ways to build a connection? No mystery here – just like in any other relationship that’s important to you, it helps to show a genuine interest in the other person’s activities or fascinations!
Consider the Environment Sensory issues o Order o Noise o Smells o Temperature o Safety o Fears o Avoid possible meltdown triggers Many individuals with autism process sensory input differently. For example, they may be especially sensitive to it and easily overwhelmed, or could focus exclusively on one strong sense and be unaware of the rest.
Approach with TLC o Use a soft voice o Gently say hello and call them by name o Be calm o Give them space o Do not touch or hug without permission o Allow time for a response o You may not get a response o Do not expect eye contact o Help the person learn that he is safe with you o Be patient; it may take a long time to feel that you are making a connection o Accept the person’s quirks o If the person is having a hard time, ask how you can help o If you’re speaking to a child, ask the parents for some tips Whether you’re talking to a child or adult, don’t be offended or upset if the other person doesn’t respond. He or she could be processing differently than you. An example? That background noise that you tuned out could be intensely distracting to him or her.
Practice Conscious Communication o Is the individual verbal? Non-verbal? o Can the individual make his/her needs known? o What has worked best in the past? o What hasn’t worked so well? o Try to find the meaning behind behaviors Try considering these questions:
Consistency is Important o Routines, picture schedules, calendars, or lists can all be useful tools o Prepare ahead of time for any changes in routine o Try to create a highly-structured environment for the person - even if this doesn’t come naturally for you A consistent environment is a safe environment! In a consistent environment, people know what’s going to happen, when, and what’s expected of them.
Behavior Tantrum o A power play o Person is aware and in control, but doesn’t want you to know that o Looks to see if people are noticing o May make sure they are safe or move from danger o If they get what they want the tantrum ends abruptly Meltdown o Total loss of behavioral control o Not a manipulative ploy o Doesn’t look to see who’s watching o Does not consider her own safety o After a certain point, nothing can appease: it’s not that the individual won’t stop, it’s that he or she can’t stop. o Punishments and ultimatums aren’t effective – you have to wait it out. Individuals with autism can sometimes have what’s called a ‘meltdown’. But for people who don’t know a lot about autism, it can look a lot like your run-of-the-mill temper tantrum. What’s the difference?
What if a Meltdown Happens? o Top priority is to avoid injury o Stay calm o Give the person space o Redirect the person when you can o Rule out medical concerns, such as migraines o Be understanding and not judgmental
o “Person first” language means referring to the person before their autism, such as “individual with autism” o “Identity first” language means referring to autism first, such as “an autistic person” o “Neurotypical” (NT) refers to an individual with neural functioning that is perceived as normative or typical, e.g. someone without autism o “Neurodiverse” (ND) refers to a community or group of individuals with distinct neurological or cognitive features o Not everyone agrees about what kind of language is most respectful Practicing Verbal Respect We recommend that you ask what language the person prefers. And then use what language they feel comfortable with, not the language you prefer.
Avoid Dehumanizing Words o R-word (“Spread the Word to End the Word” www.r-word.org) o Suffers from, victim, burdened with o Avoid stereotypes and generalizations, even if you think they’re positive, such as “they are all so loving” or “they are all so difficult” o Focus on the individual’s attributes and don’t make assumptions Practicing Verbal Respect
Don’t Forget… o Relax, don’t be afraid and certainly don’t ignore him or her o Speak in a normal tone of voice – you’re not talking to an infant! Don’t talk down to the other person o Speak to the person, not about the person o If it’s something that a non-autistic (‘neurotypical’) adult would find rude in conversation, don’t do it in this conversation! o Be patient and allow time for response o Refer to their disability only when pertinent o Be supportive and considerate o Individuals with ASD have made meaningful, lasting contributions to society o Embrace diversity & Inclusion is a basic human right
The Autism Society of Northern Virginia is here for YOU! We advocate, inform and…share the journey Contact us firstname.lastname@example.org 703-495-8444 www.asnv.org
Our Mission To Improve the Lives of All Affected by Autism
History & Vision The Autism Society of Northern Virginia was founded in 1970 by parents fighting for the right for their children to attend public schools. ALL individuals affected by autism deserve ready access to the services and supports needed to: o Be safe, o educated, o healthy, o productive and o have happy and fulfilling lives
What do we do? Provide all affected by autism with knowledge, resources, & acceptance Lunch Bunch ● Lunch & Learn ● Autism 101 ● Online support group ● Resource directory ● Mini-grant program ● Assistive Technology Program Provide social and educational opportunities for individuals with autism and their families The Autism Partnership (TAP) Program ● Social nights ● Sensory-friendly movies ● Acceptance Walk ● YouToo Tennis Build a welcoming, inclusive, & supportive region Autism 101 ● Workplace presentations ● Arts for Autism gallery ● Local, state, and federal advocacy
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