What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviour.
How common is autism?
1 in 68 children have been identified as having ASD with boys being 4.5 times more likely (1 in 42) than in girls (1 in 189).
What causes autism?
There is not enough research to come to a conclusion on the cause of autism.
What is a “spectrum disorder” in terms of autism?
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects each individual differently. There are however some characteristics that are consistent with ASD.
What is the difference between DSM-IV and DSM-V?
The diagnostic and statistical manual guides the diagnostic practices of Psychiatrists and Psychologists in North America. In 2013 the DSM-IV gave way to the DSM-V, with notable changes to the classification of autism. In the past, individuals could be diagnosed with four separate disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, or the “catch-all” diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
Changes were brought in to help make the autism diagnosis more consistent and, in part, more stringent. While autism was once classified under three categories: Communication, socialization and behaviour (repertoire of interest), we now have one category representing social communication and another for restrictive or repetitive behaviours. Another significant change is the addition of a diagnosis called social pragmatic disorder, which is not considered on the autism spectrum, but contains elements that look quite similar to the category of social communication.
What warning signs should parents be aware of?
ASD is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects each individual differently. Symptoms vary in intensity and type from person to person. There are however some social, behavioural and sensory characteristics that are consistent with ASD. When talking about a young child we look for such things as: Do we see imaginative play? Does the child point and declare? Can you establish shared attention? If you recognize deficits in any of these basic areas it is best to speak to a qualified specialist as soon as possible.
What are the signs of autism?
- Speech may be absent or delayed
- Language may be unusual or repetitive and the child may mimic you (echolalia)
- May take part in selective hearing, i.e. may behave deaf when being spoken to, but alert to other sounds
- Conversations may be difficult for them to initiate or sustain
- Social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures are difficult to use and/or understand
- Relationships with peers may be difficult to develop or maintain
- Sharing interest during interactions by pointing or nodding may be absent or delayed
- May show preoccupation with one, or a few, movements, objects or speech patterns
- Routines or rituals may be rigidly followed and changes to these routines can cause distress
- May use self-stimulatory behaviours such as hand-flapping, rocking or spinning repeatedly. In some cases these behaviours may be self-injurious.
- Temper tantrums may occur without warning
What should you do if you suspect autism?
Visit your family doctor and request a formal assessment.
Is there a cure for autism?
No, there is no known cure for autism.
Is there treatment?
Yes. Scientifically validated forms of intensive early intervention, such as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) have been shown to help individuals with autism acquire meaningful skill and learning techniques.
Early diagnosis can result in early intervention, which can improve a child’s chances of achieving the most developmental gains, and reaching their full potential. In British Columbia, we have access to provincial government funding through the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) for autism treatment.
What are the main difference for autism treatment programs for children and adults?
As individuals grow, their behaviours evolve and so do their needs. In childhood the focus is on maintaining a structured environment, with a 1:1 therapy focus for 40 hours (ideally) a week in order to build the necessary skills to carry individuals into adulthood. Treating an adult with autism means community planning, skills training in the work force, social skills building for 1:1, and group facilitation, as well as developing coping strategies. It is all a matter of building stepping-stones and reacting to the changes that come with growing up.
Can families in rural areas implement ABA treatment programs?
Even though it may seem difficult, families can still implement ABA programs in more rural areas. Many Behavioural Consultants use technology to bridge onsite client visits. In the past, groups of parents have even teamed up to bring in Behavioural Consultants from other locations. There are now a number of behavioural consultants who are willing to travel. In addition, the Autism BC is actively targeting training for Behaviour Interventionists in the outlying areas of BC.
Where do I get help?
Every individual with autism is different. To speak with one of our information officers contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-437-0880.