What is Autism (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal social communication and social interaction, generally evidenced by the age of three. Other characteristics often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental changes or changes in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
In some cases, individuals may not demonstrate concerns that might suggest the presence of an ASD early in their development (e.g. prior to age 3). In some cases, children appear to develop typically, or even advanced for their age. At some point in their development, their skills (particularly in social interactions) no longer match with their peers and become increasingly disparate. In addition, some children (and adults) mask their symptoms, which often expends so much of their energy during the day that by the time they get home, they are exhausted and tend to exhibit more serious difficulties.
Autism (ASD) or Asperger's?
Prior to 2015, Asperger's Syndrome was considered part of the Autism Spectrum, but it was its own diagnosis. As of 2015, Asperger's Syndrome falls under ASD and is not a separate diagnosis. An individual who previously would have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (or High Functioning Autism) will likely have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder - Level 1 (requiring support, but they do not require substantial support).
Does my child have Autism (ASD)? Do I have Autism (ASD)?
If you believe your child, a student in your school, or you yourself may be autistic, I can complete a comprehensive evaluation to help make that determination!
Autism (ASD) Evaluations
An evaluation includes a detailed developmental and medical history and interview with parents, direct assessment with you or your child. Assessments focus on cognitive, academic, executive functioning, and language assessments, completion of rating scales from parents or other adults familiar with the individual, caregivers, and/or teachers, and review of any available records. Structured and unstructured assessments designed to observe the social interactions and characteristics of Autism are also completed as part of the evaluation process. I am not a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and may refer you to seek an additional evaluation with an SLP to better understand your child's communication strengths and needs. I am not an M.D., Ph.D., or Psy.D. but I am trained and qualified to assess you or your child.
Identity First vs. Person First Language
You may have noticed language on my website that is person-first (e.g. a person with Autism), as well as identity-first (e.g. autistic person). There is a wealth of information from the autistic community that those individuals "with autism" want to be known as "autistic." Autism is their identity, it is who they are. This has been a switch from much of my teaching to view individuals as people first. As I continue to develop my mindset to include autistic viewpoints, I may miss places where I used person-first language. Please forgive me as I continue to work on my own identity! As I work with you, the autistic individual, or the individual who believes they are autistic, or the family who has an autistic child or believes they may be autistic, I will work with you to determine your identity and how to refer to that identity.
In my training and in my early career, I did take courses to become a BCBA, and I have utilized ABA-therapy in my work. I am aware of the growing evidence that ABA is considered abusive and traumatic to those who have endured the methodologies. There are aspects of ABA that I do believe are useful in aspects of every day life, not just related to an autistic person. However, I do not engage in ABA therapy and do not use discrete trial training in my work. When working with an autistic individual, my job is not to change them so that they meet society's norms. My job and my goal is to help that individual understand themselves to develop strategies to function in a world that was not made for them, but not to change who they are as an individual.
When to seek an evaluation? - information about possible early signs that may warrant an evaluation to determine if an Autism Spectrum Disorder is present.