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Autism Services

DEFINITION OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that typically first appears during the first three years of life, but may not become fully manifest until later in life, when social communication demands are greater.   Autism Spectrum Disorder is identified by a pattern of deficits, including difficulty with social communication, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

EARLY SIGNS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

LATER SIGNS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

Characteristics that would warrant further consideration of ASD as a possible category of disability include:

Social Communication:

  • monotonous or robotic tone
  • repetitive phrases, conversation dominated by excessive information on topics of child’s own interest(s)
  • talking ‘at’ others rather than sharing a two-way conversation
  • responses to others can seem rude or inappropriate
  • Reduced or unusual response to other people’s facial expression or feelings
  • Subtle difficulties in understanding other’s intentions; may take things literally and misunderstand sarcasm or humor
  • Difficulty interacting with others; reduced or absent social interest in people; may approach others inappropriately, aggressive or disruptive
  • Reduced or absent awareness of personal space
  • Reduced or absent awareness of socially appropriate behavior
  • Reduced or absent ability to share in the social play or ideas of others, plays alone
  • Unable to adapt style of communication to social situations, for example may be overly formal or inappropriately familiar
  • Eye contact, pointing and other gestures
  • Reduced or absent flexible imaginative play or creativity, although scenes seen on visual media (for example, television) may be re-enacted
  • Makes comments without awareness of social niceties or hierarchies

Unusual Behaviors:

  • Repetitive ‘stereotypical’ movements such as hand flapping, body rocking while standing, spinning, finger flicking
  • Play repetitive and oriented towards objects rather than people
  • Overly focused or unusual interests
  • Rigid expectation that others should adhere to their rules
  • Excessive insistence on following own agenda
  • Extremes of emotional reactivity that are excessive for the circumstances
  • Strong preferences for familiar routines and things being ‘just right’
  • Dislike of change, which often leads to anxiety or other forms of distress (including aggression)
  • Over or under reaction to sensory stimuli, for example textures, sounds, smells
  • More immature in social skills than other areas of development, excessive trusting (naivety), lack of common sense, less independent than peers

AUTISM TEAM

The team is a professional group consisting of special education teachers, speech/language pathologists, and school psychologists specifically trained to evaluate and identify students who meet the criteria for the educational disability category of Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as provide support for the educational teams, including families.

The team:

Screens students who are referred for evaluation to determine if an evaluation is warranted

Observes and evaluates learning, behavior, communication, social/play, and daily living skills

Works in cooperation with parents, teachers, and other professionals to make recommendations and participate in developing an appropriate education plan

Refers to local and national resources

A referral for a screening/evaluation can be made by contacting Tricia West, via email or by calling (605) 763-5096.