April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. Despite such emphasis on early identification, a lot of parents and pediatricians remain ill--informed about the early signs as well as treatment options. Treatment for Autism should include the entire family, as the family requires thorough understanding of the disorder and must be actively engaged in the administration of social and behavioral treatment interventions. Interventions focused only on the Autistic child are a disservice to the family and will not yield optimal results.
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Early Signs of Autism
• Lack of joyful facial expressions by 6 months
• Lack of interest in reciprocal interaction with others
• Little to no babbling by 12 months
• No words by 16 months
• Lack of eye contact or responding with a “blank stare”
• Lack of pointing to things to indicate interest
How To Get Help
• If your child has any of the signs listed above, seek help from your child’s pediatrician. A thorough evaluation often includes evaluation from developmental pediatrician, clinical or child psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist.
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Types of Services
• Services for Autism have come a long way in the past decade. In-home services from a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) are key.
• Speech services for non-verbal or minimally verbal children are important
• Occupational therapies, particularly with a sensory integration approach (OT-SI) are shown to reduce sensory processing problems
• Social skills training with a psychologist, in group and individual settings are important as well
* Good service providers will stress the importance of family involvement in the treatment of Autism. In-office or in-home services may appear to take up the majority of the week, but really only include a few hours a week. The real work is left to the family who interacts with the child daily. Because family involvement is taxing on the family, it is important for family members to engage in self-care as well. You must take care of yourself in order to take care of your child.