What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause social and behavioral challenges. Today, ASD affects 1 in every 68 children and is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the United States. While there is currently no cure for ASD, research shows that early diagnosis and intervention, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), can have a significant impact on a child’s development. Knowing what to look for and when to pursue medical assistance is an important step in caring for a loved one with ASD.

Symptoms and Characteristics

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria for ASD includes the following:

  • Deficits in social communication and social interactions.
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities.
  • Symptoms that are present early in developmental periods.
  • Symptoms cause impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Symptoms are not better explained by an intellectual developmental disorder or global developmental delay.

Monitor your child for the following signs:

Age: 6 months - Does not squeal, laugh, or look toward new sounds.

Age: 9 months - Limited or no eye contact during interactions.

Age: 12 months - Does not point, wave, or shake head.

Age: 15 months - Has not used first word. Does not understand “no” or “bye.”

Age: 18 months - Decreased language or interest in social interactions.

Age: 20 months - Does not follow simple directions.

Age: 24 months - Vocabulary is less than 50 words.

Age: 36 months - Difficult to understand. Does not use sentences.

Other concerns might include picky eating, difficulty transitioning between activities, repetitive behaviors, unusual toy play, and limited interest in others.

Possible Risk Factors

The exact cause or causes of autism spectrum disorders have not yet been discovered. However, studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network have learned that there are certain factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD.

Most scientists and medical professionals agree that one of the biggest risk factors are a child’s genes, and there is significant evidence to support this claim. ASD tends to occur more often in people who have pre-existing genetic or chromosomal conditions such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis. Children who have a sibling with ASD are also at a higher risk of developing the disorder, and children born to older parents have even higher risks.

ABA Services in San Antonio

With the unique challenges of raising a child with autism in mind, Empower Behavioral Health established its Applied Behavior Analysis services in the San Antonio area to assist families affected by this disorder. ABA is recognized as the most effective treatment for autism, and has gained support and endorsements from the Unites States Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Institute of Mental Health, among others.

Empower Behavioral Health was created with the mission of empowering families by providing the most effective ABA services in the San Antonio area. Our goal is to help learners with autism and other developmental disabilities reach their maximum potential. Contact us today for more information.