Autism occurs four times more in boys than in girls. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders has drastically risen since the 1980’s. Some studies now claim 1-150 children are diagnosed as autistic with occurrence in as many as 1-94 boys. It is unclear if this is due to the different definitions of autism used today, diagnostic practices or if the actual amount of cases has increased.
There has also been an increase in the diagnosis of
Some parents claim their child seemed different from birth while others say their child developed normally and than later in life, lost skills.
Signs usually are noticed during the first two years of life. Symptoms can begin around 6 months of age and become established by 2-3 years of age. They usually continue throughout adulthood. Autism is not distinguished by a single symptom, but a group of symptoms that include the following:
The definition of autism can range from mild to severe. Determining how severe a child's symptoms are can be based on their overall IQ and on how much daily support the child needs.
Doctors now recommend screening for autistic symptoms at baby well checks beginning around 12 months. Speak to your pediatrician if you notice the following:
The definition of autism is based on a child's behavioral symptoms. To receive a diagnosis, a child must have at least six symptoms. Two must be from the social interaction list, one from the impairment of communication list and one demonstrating restricted and repetitive behavior. The onset of symptoms must occur before age 3.
Autism is one of the qualifying conditions outlined in the thirteen categories of special education as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Beginning at age 3, a child with an official definition of autism is entitled to a free appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. What is appropriate depends on your child’s unique needs.
Early intervention for children with autism has been found to be key to improving functioning. County regional centers and public school districts must provide, at no cost to you, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan is a written document that describes your child’s current level of functioning and the anticipated outcome. It also lists the specific services that will be provided in order to meet the needs of your child.
All school districts must offer preschool early intervention programs for children with disabilities and continue services through age 23. This includes transition services to the elementary school. The most important goal of any educational program should be to help the child become more functionally independent.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA), structured teaching, speech and language therapy, social skills therapy and occupational therapy are all part of special education services available to autistic children. Intensive ABA has shown to be effective in improving the functioning of pre-school children and is well established at improving intellectual performance.
Sample goals for a child with a definition of autism might focus on social skills, expressive verbal language, increased engagement, improvement of fine and gross motor skills, increase in pretend play and increased independent skills. Medications and alternative therapies are also available from private therapists but parents may find these to be expensive.
If the district can provide the service but the parent prefers an outside provider, the parent is responsible for the cost, not the school district.
For example, even if a child does not receive a diagnosis of autism from their physican if they possess characteristics that severly impact their ability fo learn, the IEP team can recommend that the child qualify for special education. The team can agree that the behaviors are pronounced enough to warrant a definition of autism as the qualifying condition or they can choose to qualify the child under the heading of Other Health Impaired.
Agreeing on appropriate services may involve significant negotiation. Non-profit organizations like Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America can assist you with learning about the latest available therapies, treatment and research. Resources like the child behavior guide can provide you with information and strageties related to child behavior, pervasive developmental disorders and ADHD.
REMEMBER...being able to clearly state why you believe a service is necessary for your child will help you to be able to convince an IEP team.