Developmental Screenings for Children are Important

If you are a parent or guardian of a child, you know the importance of regular doctor visits. In addition to the standard components of a visit, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians talk with families about their child’s development at every well-child visit between birth and 3 years old, and conduct developmental screenings at 9, 18 and 30 months of age.

During the first three years of a child’s life, their brain undergoes a remarkable period of development, and these years are considered the most important in a child’s development. These years are an important time for developmental monitoring and screening.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether a child is meeting typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. A milestone checklist such as the one on MKSA’s website is a useful tool for this. All family members can participate in developmental monitoring. If you feel your child is not developing like other children of the same age, speak with your child’s pediatrician. At well-visits, doctors will do developmental monitoring and will ask you questions and will talk and play with your child. Childcare providers can also be a valuable source of information on your child’s development.

Developmental screening is a more in-depth look at your child’s development. Parents will complete a questionnaire about their child and your child may get a brief test. Screenings may be done by a doctor as well as other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education or school settings. Developmental screening is more formal and done less often than monitoring. Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern, but developmental screening is a regular part of some well visits for all children. The AAP recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during well visits at the following ages:  9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. AAP also recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder during well visits at 18 and 24 months. If your child is at a higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, family history or other factors, your doctor may discuss additional screening.

Parents are sometimes hesitant about developmental screenings, believing that doctors are looking for problems. The opposite is often true. Parents—especially first-time parents—often have many questions about their child’s development. All aspects of a child’s development and life are considered, and doctors often reassure parents that behaviors and development are in fact typical. And if there is a concern, early help does make a difference.

If a developmental screening identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be suggested. An evaluation will identify and diagnose developmental delays and conditions and determine if a child is eligible for early intervention services. A developmental delay means a child has not reached age-appropriate milestones in one or more developmental areas. If the delay is significant enough to meet eligibility criteria, early intervention services are available at no out-of-pocket cost. To learn more about this, click here.

Many families have delayed well-child visits due to the pandemic, resulting in missed screenings. Schedules were altered, and ‘getting back to normal’ should include resuming regular checkups for children. Many milestones can only be measured by doctors in person. Parents can also discuss any concerns they may have about their child, and receive guidance, and resources if necessary. If well-visits were missed, now is the time to reconnect with your child’s doctor and discuss any concerns.

If you have any questions about your child’s development, MKSA is here to answer your questions. Please reach out by email at info@mksallc.org or call 516-731-5588.

 

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.

 

 Sources:

https://cdc.gov Developmental Monitoring and Screening

https://aap.org Developmental Screening

Tips for Traveling With a Special Needs Child

One of the fun parts of life includes vacations and travel. Staycations, exotic trips, theme parks, beach relaxation—they all serve the same purpose: a break from our daily routines. Planning a trip can be exhausting and maintaining a schedule while away can be extra challenging. For families that include a child with special needs there are additional concerns and extra planning that must be taken into consideration.

Planning your trip

Explore transportation options based on the distance you need to travel. Are you close enough to travel by car? If your child needs specialized seating, what travel mode works best with their seating system? If air or train travel leaves you too far from emergency medical treatment, consider a closer destination that can be reached by car.

In choosing a destination, consider your child’s special needs and capabilities. Will a cruise work best for your needs and family interests? Royal Caribbean received the first “Autism Friendly” certification several years ago. Maybe city travel interests your child and can provide varied activities for all family members. National Parks provide visitors with wheelchair-accessible trails, auto tours and observation areas. And, of course, theme parks—Disney in particular—go above and beyond accommodating special needs families.

Plan your trip and choose destinations and rest stops that can accommodate your child’s needs. Even if you are traveling by car, make sure your final destination has any accessibility that is needed. It’s important—and okay—to let people know what your child needs and to expect accommodations to be made for your child.

Flying

For trips by plane, preparing your child for flying will make the transitions a bit easier. You can read about airplanes and airports, and watch videos about flying. Visiting an airport might help prepare your child for the atmosphere, and you can spend some time watching planes take off and land. Some cities create mock flights that provide children with autism a flight experience (without leaving the ground!). You can pack your bags, go to the airport, pass security, board, “fly” and deplane in preparing for an upcoming flight.

Before flying, be sure to check-in at home. You’ll avoid waiting in line at the airport and can print boarding passes at home. Remember to bring small bills with you for taxis and tips. Less fumbling and less stress! The TSA has a new helpline for travelers with special needs. Call 855-787-2227 to learn more about screening policies, procedures and security checkpoint information.

When booking flights, select seats at the front of the plane, and closer to rest rooms. Upon arrival, request wheelchair assistance and security lines, if necessary. For special needs passengers, hand searches and private screenings may be requested.

Carry-on bags are key

Plan your carry-on packing strategically. Medications should always be packed in carry-on luggage in the event of lost or delayed checked baggage. While the traditional 3-1-1 rule (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/what-3-1-1-liquids-rule) applies, liquid medication is one items which may be allowed in higher quantities. Check with your carrier for more information. Remember to also carry a change of clothes for your child. For children who may become stressed or anxious in new situations, bring familiar and special items from home in your carry-on bag, such as a small blanket, toys, games or music that distract or relax your child. Noise-cancelling headphones can block out noises in planes, cars and other attractions.

Special items

Be sure to review items you’ll need for bath time, bedtime and meals. Call your hotel(s) to see how they can help. Bring special items that your child(ren) require or are used to, such as a special toy, blanket or sippy cup. Be sure to make a checklist of important items and double check it before leaving each stop of your trip.

Get your doctor involved

Speak with your child’s pediatrician and ask for recommendations and tips. If you are flying, ask if there are natural supplements or medications that might help your child relax to make the flight or drive easier. Prepare a folder with information you might need in an emergency, such as:

-a list of medications your child is taking along with a copy of each prescription

-doctor’s letter with description of your child’s condition/special needs (especially for ‘invisible’ conditions such as Autism or Tourette Syndrome)

-phone numbers, email addresses of child’s doctors and specialists (this is in addition to info stored in your phone)

-recommendations for doctors and specialists in the area you are visiting

-copies of health insurance cards and phone numbers (check your health insurance before leaving; many companies require prior approval for out of town emergency room or doctor visits)

Prepare your child

To help prepare your child before your trip, discuss your itinerary and explain what your child will encounter each day. Read books and look at photos of your destination so your child can see what to expect. As important as it is to plan your days and prepare your child, keeping to your overall routine will help ease tension for a special needs child. Naps and mealtimes, when kept on schedule go a long way in maintaining balance.

With some diligent preparation and research, you’ll be able to find the right vacation for your family. And while not every trip goes as planned, the vacation time spent together as a family can be more valuable than any itinerary or tourist attraction checked off your list.

Wishing you safe travels!

 

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.

 Sources:
Familyvacationcritic.com
Friendshipcircle.com
Myfamilytravels.com

Strategies for Navigating the Holidays with a Special Needs Child

The holidays are a magical time of year for children, with plans for family get-togethers, gift shopping and gift anticipation, as well as other loud, colorful activities. For children with special needs this can be an immensely stressful time of year full of many challenges at home, in school and throughout the community. The holidays are full of potential triggers for children with autism, anxiety and other special needs. By planning ahead and having alternate plans, you can help make the holiday season less stressful for your child. It is important to speak with any visiting friends and family member as well as those whose homes you will be visiting. Share with them any special behaviors, quirks or sensitivities of your child so that they may better understand your child and his (and your!) needs and expectations.

For children with anxiety, anticipation is a big trigger in the time leading up to the holidays. This feeling often leads to anxiety overload, causing them to have a melt down just before, during or after the holiday. For these children, keeping the holidays low-key helps greatly. It’s okay to treat the holiday as an important day, but not in an over-the-top crazy way. To some children, piles of wrapped presents that cannot be opened can be stressful. Keeping these gifts out of sight can help children get stressed about waiting, and possible even opening gifts too early.

At this time of year, there is always an overload of sensory stimuli such as lights, music, bells, odors, tastes, crowds, and hugging. There are strategies for each of these situations; if you can speak with your child and discuss what elements are the most stressful, you can formulate a plan. For example, if certain smells upset your child, consider getting an artificial tree and battery-operated candles. If lights are a trigger, try ones that don’t blink. Decorate tastefully, leaving plenty of space throughout the home so that it doesn’t feel overdone or overcrowded with seasonal items. Try listening to instrumental, relaxing holiday music instead of loud, “busy” music. While planning visits to the mall, try to go during less-crowded times, when your child is well-rested and not hungry.

Family visits can be especially stressful for children with autism, sensory processing disorder, or other special needs. Prepare your child for any dinners or social events in advance. Discuss who will be visiting or where you will be going. Explain that it’s okay if he doesn’t want to hug or shake hands. Let him know there will be a quiet place where he can go to relax; this can be in your home or in someone else’s home (ask your host in advance). Be sure to prepare items such as noise cancelling headphones, a weighted blanket, a stuffed animal, tablet or books. Whatever soothes your child should be available to him, either in your home or in a backpack packed for the day.

It is important to let your child know that it is okay to feel a bit ‘off’ during the hectic, crowded time of the holidays. Let him know that his normal routine will return after the dinner/visit/outing. Work with your child to be sure to get positioned in a place (a corner of someone’s living room, a separate quiet room, a seat in a house of worship such as an aisle near the exit) that offers some comfort and an exit strategy.

An important element to consider is YOUR level of stress. If you are feeling out of sorts and overwhelmed, your special needs child will likely react to your stress. It is at this time that you need to take care of you. Breathe. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Take a break and ground yourself, so that your child will relax too.

Here are some tips from A Day in Our Shoes (adayinourshoes.com) that can function as a checklist for the holidays with children with special needs:

School Holidays and the Special Needs Child

  1. Communication is key! Communicate with your child’s teacher, read the school website. Find out what changes are going to happen as best as you can. Prepare your child for these changes–different meals, assemblies, early dismissals, whatever it may be.
  2. Ask your teacher to have a one sheet” included in her sub-folder about your child. This should include the necessary information that a sub would need to know about your child and what may cause him anxiety.
  3. Have daily briefings at breakfast and dinner. It sounds formal, but it doesn’t have to be. Just talk about what is going to happen that day or what did happen that day. What will be different?
  4. Contact his therapists or whoever works with your child and ask if they can do more role-playing, scripting and/or social stories related to holiday festivities.

Holidays with a Special Needs Child at Home

  1. If you haven’t sent out holiday cards in a while (not many people do it anymore!), consider sending them to the people you will come into contact with, might be visiting or might be staying with this holiday season. This is an easy and private way to share your child’s “quirks” and expectations.
  2. Talk with your child. Find out what their expectations are and make sure everyone is on the same page. Prepare them as best you can. Again, consider the morning and evening daily briefings.
  3. Pick your battles. Food doesn’t have to be an issue. Consider bringing some healthy snacks with you to family dinners. If your child refuses to wear a shirt and tie, it’s okay!
  4. When visiting, bring things that are a comfort to your child, especially if staying overnight. A favorite blanket, pillow, and his own shampoo will go a long way in soothing a child that is not sleeping in his own bed.
  5. Don’t force affection. This is another item you can explain to friends and family before your visit. If your child does not want to embrace and kiss relatives they barely know, or do not enjoy being hugged, respect that. Explain to the relatives that your child really does care about them, but that this is not how he shows it.
  6. Have an escape signal or word. Give your child an “out” if it is more than he can handle.
  7. Go visual. Have a color-coded calendar or some other method of visually outlining what your family is doing. Consider doing it with velcro so that items can be moved and removed if you need to alter your schedules.
  8. Sensory-friendly events and Quiet Santas are very common around the holidays. These are a great opportunity to participate and be able to relax a little bit.
  9. Set your child up for success. Pre-arrange conversations with relatives so that your child is included. A simple “I heard that you really enjoyed your school field trip to the museum” might be much more engaging for your child instead of “what’s your favorite subject at school?” but a relative may not know that.

Stress, Holidays and Special Needs Moms.

  1. Remember that holidays and holiday breaks are intended to be a relaxing time and a “reset” so that you can go back to work/school rested and refreshed. Keep that in mind as you do your holiday schedule.
  2. Say no. Often. You don’t have to do everything.
  3. These are good opportunities to educate family and friends about your child’s issues. But, keep your child in mind–do not talk about them in front of them.

The bottom line is that families celebrate holidays in many ways. For families with special needs children, some additional planning may be necessary to comfortably experience this time of year. But with a lot of communication and much planning, it can truly be a magical time of year.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy holiday season!

 

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.

Sources:
Adayinourshoes.com
Comfortinganxiouschildren.com
 

From School to Summer Break for Students with Special Needs

Summer vacation is just around the corner, and it means different things to different families. For families of children with special needs, moving from school to summer break is one large, long transition that doesn’t always go very easily. Most children do better with routine and structure, but children with autism spectrum disorders, anxiety and ADHD are especially dependent on the predictability that school provides. Remove that “safe zone” and they are more prone to tantrums, oppositional behavior and anxiety.

For parents that are home, it can be difficult to find and stick to routines during this more relaxing time of year. With later bedtimes, random napping, and spontaneous plans, sometimes just creating some structure each day can be challenging. To be sure, there are some unexpected benefits from unstructured time as well, but finding a balance is not always easy.

Below are some ways to help kids with special needs transition to a summer schedule:

Routine – In an effort to keep a child more comfortable, where possible try to maintain the school year’s daily schedule, including meal times and bedtime. The predictability of even certain components of each day will keep your child more relaxed.

Play – While home can become a safe place, especially for children with sensory processing disorders or social difficulties, it is important that they don’t spend hours inside in front of screens. Physical activity is good for everyone, particularly for children with lots of energy to burn! Find an activity that your child enjoys such as swimming, playing tag or riding a bicycle. Exercise, including jumping and swinging boosts endorphin levels and summer vacation is a good excuse to be outdoors playing. Swings are a great form of exercise for children with special needs. Look at a hammock swing, standard belt swing or a special needs swing. Supervised time on a trampoline is also a good activity.

Sensory Space – A sensory space can help with transitions, or to allow a child to relax at certain times of the day. If you need to, schedule sensory time each day (several times if necessary). This space can include controlled lighting and sound, with comfortable beanbag chairs or crash pads. Look to include items for compression, play, movement or heavy work. Weighted items such as balls can be incorporated here as well.

Lists/Schedules – Writing children’s daily tasks and activities on a posted list can help greatly, especially for children who have difficulty with transitions. Make sure they are included in making and monitoring the list. Tasks on the list can include chores, activities, summer reading work and anything else that will happen during the day (i.e. 8AM: wake up, use bathroom, brush teeth; 9AM: breakfast; 10AM: summer reading). A list will especially help children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD, ADHD, Executive Functioning Disorder and those on the autism spectrum.

Planned Activities – Plan ahead whenever possible, so your child can know ahead of time that you have plans for ‘Wednesday at 11:00 AM.’ Try to also have a set daily routine, such as going to the park every afternoon.

Travel and Routines – Vacations that involve staying in hotels can be additionally challenging. When possible, explore renting a vacation apartment where mimicking home routines is easier. Consider bringing familiar snacks and picking up milk, juice and snacks once you arrive. Having some familiar routine components, even while on vacation, may be helpful.

Summer Camp – For information on finding a camp that will accommodate your child’s special needs, see our previous blog post “Things to Consider When Choosing a Summer Camp for a Child with Special Needs.”

With some research and planning, you’ll be able to set up a summer plan that will work for your child, and his/her special needs and interests. Remember that it’s equally important for parents/caregivers to take some time for themselves. If possible, book a babysitter and spend some time with friends. If that isn’t feasible, close friends with or without kids can offer support. And if a family member is available to give you a break, do so. Your well-being is important and allows you to give your best to your child. Wishing you a happy summer!

 

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.

Sources:
https://blog.schoolspecialty.com/transition-school-year-summer-break-child-special-needs/
https://educationpost.org/summer-is-tough-for-parenting-a-child-with-disabilities-but-its-also-an-opportunity/
https://childmind.org/article/strategies-for-a-successful-summer-break/

What You Need to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulty interacting and communicating with others. Children with ASD also may engage in repetitive behaviors, which could be physical (flapping hands, jumping repetitively) or vocal (repeating videos, making repetitive sounds). Play skills are often immature and repetitive. Severity varies widely and each child on the spectrum presents with a unique array of symptoms. While all children with ASD present with some challenges in the areas of language and socialization, some may have a little or no spoken language and more challenging behaviors that interfere with learning and daily life.

ASD is often diagnosed between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Studies indicate that autism is five times more common in boys than girls, with a higher risk if a sibling is diagnosed with autism.

INDICATORS OF ASD

Some indicators of ASD may include:

-doesn’t babble/make meaningful gestures by 1 year

-does not speak one word by 16 months

-does not combine two words by 2 years

-does not respond to name

-loses language or social skills

-doesn’t play with toys appropriately

-excessively lines up toys or objects

-no pointing or showing

-does not imitate

-lack of social-emotional reciprocity (i.e. limited or no back-and-forth conversation, reduced sharing of interests/emotions, failure to initiate and respond to social interactions)

-abnormal eye contact and body language; lack of understanding and use of gestures; lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication

-difficulty in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships; absence of interest in peers

-repetitive motor movement, use of objects or speech (i.e. lining up toys, flipping objects, echolalia)

-insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines (i.e. difficulties with transitions, need to take same route or eat same food every day)

WHAT IS ABA SERVICES?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is considered the treatment of choice for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. ABA uses these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive changes in behavior. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of incentive or reward, that behavior is more likely to be repeated. ABA therapy sessions often involve one-on-one interaction between the ABA provider and the child. These techniques can be used in structured situations such as the classroom as well as in everyday situations.

MKSA continues to be a leader in bringing standardized testing and ABA services to early intervention. Our agency has some of the area’s most experienced and respected diagnosticians. Experts at ruling out ASD, they use the most current testing procedures, informal observation and clinical judgment, and take the time to make sure they have a complete picture of your child.

Our psychologists have PhDs and are licensed by NY State. The Director of Behavioral Services and many of our ABA staff are NYS Licensed Behavior Analysts (LBAs) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). ABA team leaders and providers are all experienced special educators with years of education, training, and practical experience in developing programs, and providing individualized instruction to young children with ASD. This expertise is combined with a genuine concern for families and an understanding of the challenges they face.

WHEN SHOULD A CHILD BE EVALUATED FOR AN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?

An evaluation should be considered if your child demonstrates some of the following “red flags”:

– rarely looks you in the eye for more than a second or two, or seems to be avoiding eye contact

– does not respond when you call his/her name

– does not point at something he wants or to show you an object of interest

– is not beginning to imitate what you do (clapping, “so big,” blowing kisses, etc.)

– demonstrates repetitive motor movements (rocking, hand flapping, jumping), repetitive actions with toys (spinning, throwing to floor repeatedly, lining up), or repetitive vocalizations

-repeatedly vocalizes parts of TV shows, books, or previously heard conversations, often days after he heard them

-has difficulty with changes in daily routines and get inordinately upset when routines may change

– show no interest in his peers and does not observe what other children are doing

As with any concerns, always speak with your pediatrician first. MKSA is here for you, and we are available to answer your questions. If necessary, we can make appropriate referrals. For more information, call (516) 731-5588 or contact us by email.

 

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not designed to be used as a substitute for information provided by medical professional, and is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any condition or situation. Always consult your child’s pediatrician for any concerns.

Some information courtesy of autismcenter.org, National Institute of Mental Health, and DSM-5 checklist

Pokémon Go or Pokémon No?

In case you’ve been out of our solar system for the past few weeks, you’ve by now heard of Pokémon Go. You know, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” Right? But just in case you were visiting Pluto, let’s get you up to speed. Pokémon Go is a free, location-based app for Apple and Android devices. Users get up and out (yes–outside! while gaming!) and through augmented reality, try to catch Pokémon cartoon characters on their smartphone screens. Augmented reality is a live view of the world that is enhanced by computer-generated input such as images, sound, video or GPS information. Meaning, you use the app on the phone to play a game that essentially superimposes Pokémon characters on the screen as if they were actually appearing in real life. The goal of the game is to catch as many characters as possible and advance through the game. Three days after its release, the app had more users than Twitter. The app set new download records and sent stock prices soaring for game creators Nintendo, Google-spinoff Niantic, and Pokemon Company. The app got users playing the game to leave their house, be outside, and interact with other users. With the good, comes the bad and most certainly some ugly.

The Good

Kids (and adults as well) are getting outside! You’ve got to walk and travel to collect Pokémon. There are PokeStops, which are predesignated places (often community landmarks) where certain items are collected which help you in your quest to catch more characters. And you must keep moving and traveling to find characters, and reach PokeStops. So it’s good. People are walking. We’re talking miles and miles. And people are outdoors. We’re talking grass and sky and sun. And one of the seemingly unforeseen effects of this game is its positive impact on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For those with ASD, social interactions are often awkward and limited. However, for players with ASD, having a shared interest is making social interactions easier. Stories can be found about children with ASD suddenly seeking changes in their routines. Some children who rarely leave their usual environment are asking to go, for example, to the park in the evening. Others, for whom eye contact and interaction are very limited are high-fiving other players. So yes, some good.

The Bad

The first seemingly obvious bad is the ability of users to so fully immerse themselves in the game that despite onscreen warnings to be alert to your environment, they forget to look up from their screens. Stories abound of players crossing streets, riding bikes, skateboarding, and yes—even driving—while playing the game. Is it really necessary to say don’t do those things while looking down at a screen? Players are also trespassing on private property and venturing into known risky areas all to catch a rare Pokémon. Common sense must not be abandoned! You can be smart and cautious and still have fun.

The Ugly

The ugly is bad on steroids. Stories have surfaced of players finding a dead body while searching for a Pokémon. There are also claims of players walking off cliffs. Other stories state players were “lured” (yes there are lures that can be purchased to encourage players to visit a particular area to find Pokémon) only to find trouble. Business owners can purchase these ‘Lure Modules’ and encourage customers to visit while catching Pokémon, but of course ugly can always rear its head. So be smart!

In all, there is hope that good will conquer the bad and ugly. And this is just the tip of the augmented reality gaming iceberg. Getting exercise, being outdoors, interacting with others and having fun are encouraging in this day of excess screen usage. Still looking at a screen, for sure—but, baby steps, right? And watch where you walk.

6 Facts About Autism Spectrum Disorder

1. Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are terms for a group of complex neurological disorders. In 2013 all autism disorders were merged into one overall diagnosis of ASD. ASD is characterized by difficulty interacting and communicating with others. Children with ASD also tend to engage in repetitive behaviors, which may be physical (flapping hands, jumping repetitively) or vocal (repeating videos, making repetitive sounds). Play skills are also often immature and repetitive.

2. ASD symptoms and their severity vary widely. Each child on the spectrum presents with a unique array of symptoms. While all children with ASD present with some challenges in the areas of language and socialization, some may have a complete lack of spoken language and have more challenging behaviors that disrupt their daily lives and the lives of their families. The basic symptoms of autism are often accompanied by other medical conditions and challenges, which can also vary widely in severity.

3. Autism is often diagnosed between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Studies indicate that autism is four times more common in boys than girls, and there is a higher risk if a sibling is diagnosed with autism.

4. Some indicators of ASD may include:

-doesn’t babble by 1 year

-does not speak one word by 16 months

-does not combine two words by 2 years

-does not respond to name

-loses language or social skills

-doesn’t play with toys appropriately

-excessively lines up toys or objects

-no pointing or showing

-does not imitate

-no back-and-forth conversation

-abnormal eye contact and body language; lack of understanding and use of gestures; lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication

-difficulty in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships; absence of interest in peers

-repetitive motor movement, use of objects or speech (i.e. lining up toys, flipping objects, echolalia)

-insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines (i.e. difficulties with transitions, need to take same route or eat same food every day)

5. An evaluation should be considered if your child demonstrates some of the following “red flags”:

-rarely looks you in the eye or avoids eye contact

-does not respond when you call his/her name

-does not point at something he wants

-is not beginning to imitate what you do (clapping, blowing kisses, etc.)

-has repetitive motor movements (rocking, hand flapping, jumping), repetitive actions with toys (lining up), or repetitive vocalizations

-repeatedly vocalizes parts of TV shows, books, or previously heard conversations, often days after he heard them

-has difficulty with changes in daily routines and get inordinately upset when routines may change

-show no interest in his peers and does not observe what other children are doing

6. Research shows the most effective treatment for children with ASD is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. ABA is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive changes in behavior. ABA therapy sessions often involve one-on-one interaction between the ABA  provider and the child. These techniques can be used in structured situations such as the classroom as well as in everyday situations.

 

As with any concerns, speak with your pediatrician first. MKSA is always available to answer questions and make appropriate referrals. For more information about MKSA’s ABA services, click here.

 

Some information courtesy of autismcenter.org, National Institute of Mental Health, and DSM-5 checklist