Frequently Asked Questions About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
What is Autism or ASD?
Although everyone with ASD is unique in their own way, people with ASD share some common experiences. According to the DSM, which defines mental and behavioral health disorders, the core symptoms of ASD include:
1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction, which include:
- deficits in social-emotional reciprocity (back and forth interactions with others)
- deficits in nonverbal communication
- deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
2. Restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities, which may include:
- stereotyped or repetitive motor movements
- insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
- highly restricted, fixated interests
- hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment
What Causes Autism or ASD?
The cause of autism or ASD is unknown. People of all races, nationalities, and socioeconomic statuses can experience autism.
Some factors make it more likely for someone to have the condition. For instance, some scientific evidence suggests that a child is more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder if they also experience one of the following:
- Having a sibling with ASD
- Having parents of older age
- Having certain genetic conditions (ex: Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome)
- Having a very low birth weight
- Being born premature, especially before 26 weeks gestation
Science suggests that genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorder.
Can Autism or ASD be Cured?
Autism is not generally something to be cured. Some of the traits of ASD that a person experiences can be changed to help that person improve their quality of life. A person with autism can learn strategies and new behaviors that can help them improve specific areas of their life. However, a person with autism will have the condition for their lifetime.
There are treatments available to help people with autism improve their current and future quality of life. Treatments for ASD aim to support goals that are meaningful and important for the individual receiving the services.
How is Autism or ASD Diagnosed?
Most children are screened for autism by their primary care physician. If the doctor suspects signs of ASD, they will likely make a referral to a specialist who can evaluate for and diagnose ASD.
The specialist will complete an assessment that involves an evaluation of the child’s behaviors and functioning. The evaluation typically includes observing the child, completing directed activities with the child, and interviewing the child’s parents.
An assessment for autism may include evaluating the individual’s communication and language skills, social skills, daily living skills, behavioral issues, and sensory processing issues.
What are some of the early signs of Autism or ASD?
Signs of autism can sometimes be identified in children as young as one year old or even earlier for some children. Some kids may meet typical developmental milestones in the first year of life and then lose skills they previously learned in the second or third year of life.
Signs of autism can be present at any age, but there are some traits of ASD that can be identified during early childhood.
Some early signs of autism that may be present specifically between 18 months and three years of age include:
- Not smiling during social interactions with caregivers
- Not having back-and-forth verbal communication (not making sounds in response to parents’ making sounds to the child)
- Not copying facial expressions
- Not responding to their name
- Not using gestures like pointing or waving
- Not speaking (especially by 16 months) or losing language skills
What are the treatment options for Autism or ASD?
Treatment for autism should begin as soon as possible. Treatment for ASD can help reduce the challenges the individual experiences in their current and future life.
There are no known medications that address ASD directly. However, your child’s doctor may recommend medication for things such as hyperactivity, irritability, or sleep issues.
Behavioral interventions are the most effective treatment option for individuals with ASD. Behavior-based interventions, such as applied behavior analysis, help the person to develop skills that help improve their daily living skills, social and communication skills, and educational and occupational skills. They can also address challenging behaviors that interfere with their development, safety, and well-being.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) can also include parent training or parent coaching services to help parents learn strategies that support their child’s behaviors and development.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy, or applied behavior analysis, also known as ABA, is a treatment based on the science of behavior and learning. ABA aims to help people improve their lives by focusing on treatment goals important to their quality of life.
ABA is an evidence-based intervention for children with autism and can be an effective treatment for other concerns, such as ADHD, learning difficulties, and other challenges.
ABA therapists will help your child develop skills they can use in their everyday life to function more independently. They will use data collection and progress monitoring activities to ensure that your child is receiving quality and effective services. They will also focus on meaningful treatment goals for your child - things that are important to their ability to function at home, at school, and which set a foundation for their future.
ABA therapists will collaborate with parents to individualize services based on the child’s needs and abilities.
Is ABA therapy covered by insurance?
Most insurance plans cover ABA therapy. Behavioral Innovations accepts most major insurance providers and have experienced insurance specialists that can help you navigate the process of funding your ABA services with your insurance coverage. In addition, Behavioral Innovations staff can help you determine the exact coverage eligibility and benefits that your insurance provider offers.
Behavioral Innovations accepts the following insurance plans:
- United Healthcare: Optum
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Sooner Care (Oklahoma)
- Imagine Health
- Magellan Health
- Health First: Colorado
What are the next steps after diagnosis?
After your child receives an official autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, the next step is to contact an ABA provider to discuss enrolling your child in ABA services.
You can contact Behavioral Innovations to begin the process of registering your child for effective ABA services.
Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 1(1), 91-7.
Gilmore, H. Understanding Autism: What is ASD? Retrieved 7/25/2021 from https://connectplustherapy.com/understanding-autism/
Gilmore, H. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? A Guide to Understanding ASD. Retrieved 7/25/2021 from https://www.abaparenttraining.com/home/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder-what-is-asd
National Institute of Health. March 2018. Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved 7/25/2021 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/
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C.L., Aug 2022