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Basic Information About Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Lorien Quirk, M.Ed., BCBA Mt. Diablo Unified School District 2013. What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?. Brain development disorder affecting communication, behavior, and social awareness

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Basic Information About Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)


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    1. Basic Information About Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Lorien Quirk, M.Ed., BCBA Mt. Diablo Unified School District 2013

    2. What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? • Brain development disorder affecting communication, behavior, and social awareness • Includes: autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Rett’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental delay—no other specified) • Cause is unknown but there is a 90% link through heredity. Environmental variables are becoming increasingly prominent in correlational data. • Three times more males than females • Can be diagnosed as early as 18 months old (but people are creating tools to find signs earlier than that) • Current rate is 1 case in 88 children (includes all ASD) • The incidence of Autism is increasing 10-17% annually

    3. Characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) • Limited eye contact • People with autism tend to avoid making direct eye contact with other people • The skill of making eye contact typically must be taught to these students • Making eye contact may be aversive to these students—if they avoid eye contact it’s not because they are being rude or disobedient!

    4. Characteristics of ASD cont’d • Different methods of communication • Students with ASD may not use spoken words to communicate, but some do • Some students may repeat what you say without meaning the words (echolalia) • Some students use sign language or pictures to communicate • Some students gesture or move your hand to communicate • Some students have not yet learned a socially-acceptable way to communicate, which may be a motivation of some inappropriate, or “problem” behavior

    5. Characteristics of ASD cont’d • Different level of social skills • May not respond to natural cues • Possibly lack common manners • May not follow verbal directions • May not know the correct way to behave in different school environments • May play with items that are not age or socially-appropriate • Lack of awareness of other people in the area

    6. Characteristics of ASD cont’d • May need instruction in safety skills • May not know what materials and equipment may be dangerous • May not have street or parking lot safety skills • May engage in unsafe behavior with other students • May not know how to request wants and needs • Cannot be left unsupervised EVER • Note: it is best to assume that students with ASD do not have any safety skills and to assist them accordingly

    7. Characteristics of ASD cont’d • Unique sensory needs • May engage in self-stimulatory behavior (like flapping hands, scratching, bouncing, jumping, biting self, making noises, playing with objects, staring) • May not like to be touched by other people or be close to other people • May be sensitive to environmental factors like temperature, smells, noise level, time of day, clothing, etc.

    8. Characteristics of ASD cont’d • Difficulty transitioning • Stopping one task and starting a new one may be a challenge • Student may not attend to verbal directions to transition • Student may resist changing activities • Getting on and off the bus is a huge transition

    9. The Spectrum of Autism Asperger Syndrome “Classic” “High functioning” “Severe/ Intensive” PDD-NOS

    10. A Disclaimer… Just like all of us, individuals with ASD are unique and may not fit into any one of these categories. This information is merely a foundational guideline to understanding the (eternal) range of ASD. No one wants to be tied to a label. The most important thing is identifying the individual, not the disability.

    11. A Closer Look: “Severe/Intensive” • Characterized by the following: • Minimal/no functional communication • Poor/no eye contact or interest in others • Minimal life or independent living skills • High frequency, intensity, duration problem behaviors (including self-stimulatory) • Need high levels of prompting and repeated practice to learn new skills • Can be any age, but if younger, the prognosis is better (“early intervention”) • May also have an intellectual disability (but challenging to assess) • May have motor impairments/sensory issues

    12. A Closer Look: “Classic” • Can be represented across the spectrum, but most commonly in the “middle” range. • Characterized by: • Some functional communication skills • Minimal eye contact or interest in others except to get needs met • Highly routine-oriented • Engage in self-stimulatory behavior, repetitive, rituals • Acquires new skills best through trial-based instruction • Needs programming to generalize skills • May engage in maladaptive behavior • May have motor impairments/sensory issues

    13. A Closer Look: PDD-NOS • Autism itself is considered a developmental delay, but a person with PDD-NOS, may not appear the same way as a person with “classic” autism. • Characterized by: • Communication delay • Functional skills delays • May be able to acquire skills in a more typical fashion • May show more rapid progress • May be more socially inclined, interested in others • May engage in maladaptive behavior

    14. A Closer Look: “High functioning” • Not a clinical term, so difficult to define • Frequently confused with Asperger Syndrome • Characterized by: • Need for sameness, routine (similar to “Classic”) • Ability to engage in academic-based learning; may have average intelligence • Good functional communication skills, possibly with some delay • Impairments in social functioning, lack of interest in others; difficulty functioning in society • Possible co-morbidity with other disorders, ADHD, anxiety, OCD • May engage in maladaptive behavior

    15. A Closer Look: Asperger Syndrome • At the moment, considered to be on the autism spectrum, but diagnostic criteria may change in the near future to separate this out. • Characterized by: • No communication delay • Restricted interests • Lack of social awareness, lack of ability to navigate the social world • Awkward or “weird” • Possible co-morbidity with OCD, anxiety • May engage in maladaptive behavior • Average to above average intelligence