Current research indicates that as many as 1 in 166 individuals have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Males are four times more likely than females to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Three conditions that have similar symptoms but differ in terms of how severe they are and how they are expressed are sometimes called Autism Spectrum Disorders. There are different ways in which the hallmark characteristics of autism, most particularly within the social interaction area, are expressed. Many people do not exhibit all of the criteria for a diagnosis of autism but their characteristics are best described as fitting within the spectrum of autism. Autism spectrum disorders are generally considered to be:
Unfortunately, there is no medical test that can be done to show that an individual has autism. Autism can be diagnosed by observing the person and looking at how they communicate and relate to others. A few of the behaviors that a diagnostician may look for include making eye contact with a person who is talking to them, showing interest in what other people are doing and engaging in play with others (if the individual is young). Difficulty in relating to people is a hallmark symptom of autism (see "red flags" below).
Early Indicators or "Red Flags" of Autism in Children Three and Under Currently, the criteria used to diagnose autism (The Diagnostic Statistical Manual –IV – TR) are designed for 3-year-olds. However, recent research has shown that certain behaviors in children younger than 3 may indicate a higher risk for developing autism. No single behavior or factor indicates a child may have autism but the presence of several symptoms could be cause for concern. Parents should watch for the following: Early Signs of Autism
Autism can be diagnosed by a medical doctor or a licensed psychologist. If a parent is concerned about the communication and social development of their child, they may see their general pediatrician or family doctor first. Frequently, the family will then be referred to a specialist who has specific experience with autism and other developmental disorders. This may be a developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist with experience in the area of autism.
There are several assessments that can be done to diagnose autism. Usually a diagnostician will conduct a structured observation period to observe the individual. The diagnostician may ask the individual to respond to several activities as they look for specific behaviors. A structured interview also may be conducted with parents or guardians. Structured interviews provide the diagnostician with information about the individual's past behavior and their behavior at home, school and in the community. A speech evaluation and/or psychological evaluation may be conducted during the diagnostic evaluation.
Once an individual has been diagnosed with autism it is important to begin intervention as early as possible. Early intervention usually focuses on intense skill building. Skills that are learned easily by typically developing persons can be difficult for someone with autism. For example, individuals with autism have difficulty understanding social cues and may need to be taught to pay attention to others, play with others and communicate with others. Many skills must be broken down into smaller components and taught systematically. Early intervention, preschool, school programs and behavioral health centers are available to provide intervention. In addition, in West Virginia , a family can contact the WVATC and receive services. The WVATC works closely with families, school system personnel and behavioral health centers to develop and implement intervention that is designed specifically for the individual with autism.
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