Autism Spectrum Disorders: Racial Disparities and Treatment
How ethnicity impacts Autism Spectrum Disorders diagnosis & treatment
Posted Mar 01, 2013
Autism is a group of developmental brain disorders, commonly called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. ASD is diagnosed according to guidelines listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition - Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary from one child to the next, but these children typically have difficulties in three areas: social impairments (e.g., lack of interest in peer relationships, impaired non-verbal behavior), communication difficulties (e.g., delayed speech, repetitive language), and stereotyped behaviors or restricted interest (e.g., hand flapping, preoccupied interest). The NIMH provides a guide for parents on understanding autism that is helpful for understanding the disorder and its treatment.
How is ASD treated?
While there's no proven cure yet for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), treating ASD early, can greatly reduce symptoms and increase your child's ability to grow and learn new skills. According to the NIMH, research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy during the toddler or preschool years can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with ASD. There is no single best treatment for all children with ASD, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted common features of effective early intervention programs. These may include:
• Starting as soon as a child has been diagnosed with ASD
• Having small classes to allow each child to have one-on-one time with the therapist or teacher and small group learning activities
• Encouraging activities that include typically developing children, as long as such activities help meet a specific learning goal
• Providing a high degree of structure, routine, and visual cues, such as posted activity schedules and clearly defined boundaries, to reduce distractions
• Guiding the child in adapting learned skills to new situations and settings and maintaining learned skills
• Social skills, such as joint attention (looking at other people to draw attention to something interesting and share in experiencing it)
• Self-help and daily living skills, such as dressing and grooming
• Cognitive skills, such as pretend play or seeing someone else's point of view
One type of a widely accepted treatment is applied behavior analysis (ABA). The goals of ABA are to shape and reinforce new behaviors, such as learning to speak and play, and reduce undesirable ones. ABA, which can involve intensive, one-on-one child-teacher interaction for up to 40 hours a week, has inspired the development of similar interventions that aim to help those with ASD reach their full potential. ABA-based interventions include: Verbal Behavior, Pivotal Response Training, and TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children), and Interpersonal Synchrony. For children younger than age 3, these interventions usually take place at home or in a child care center. Because parents are a child's earliest teachers, more programs are beginning to train parents to continue the therapy at home. Students with ASD may benefit from some type of social skills training program. While these programs need more research, they generally seek to increase and improve skills necessary for creating positive social interactions and avoiding negative responses.
Helpful links on autism spectrum disorders:
• All about Autism Spectrum Disorders http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml
• Facts on screening and diagnosis http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html
• Autism Speaks http://www.autismspeaks.org
Copyright 2013 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
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Autism. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/a-parents-guide-to-autism-sp...
Autism Spectrum Disorders, Data and Statistics. Center for Disease Control (CDC). Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/autism/data.html
Mandell, D. S., Ittenbach, R. F., Levy, S. E., & Pinto-Martin, J. A. (2007). Disparities in diagnoses received prior to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1795–1802.
Tek, S., & Landa R. J (2012). Differences in Autism Symptoms Between Minority and Non-Minority Toddlers, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 9, 1967–1973. DOI 10.1007/s10803-012-1445-8