Growing up with Autism
Autism is a profound spectrum disorder, symptoms as well as severity, range. It is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in America. For every 68 children born in the United States, 1 is diagnosed with a neurological development disorder that impairs their ability to interact and communicate, on what we constitute as normal levels. Autism is multifaceted, it effects the brain development of millions worldwide. Not only are those diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum facing difficulties but the family members and friends surrounding and supporting them also are affected. There is no cure to this illness but there is plenty of specialist, behavioral therapies and medications to assist individuals in gaining control over their life. Evidence from research shows that early intervention on children with Autism Spectrum
Disorder has shown to have greater effect on their communication, brain development and severity of their autistic symptoms over their lifespan. In the first few years of life it can be very difficult to pinpoint an autistic child. Children on the autistic spectrum tend to experience ‘regression’ or decline in social skills and cognition between or a little after the ages 1 to 3. Some agree that exposure to a virus, possibly through vaccination, can be responsible for the regression in a child’s brain development. Researchers believe that genes and the environment contribute largely to advancements in Autism. Dysfunctional and self-stimulatory behaviors appear around toddler age and there a common quality of preservation and consistence. Children on the autism spectrum can have a difficult time adapting and coping with change. They may insist on wearing the same or specific type of clothing, insist on eating and drinking the same meals, throw uncontrollable tantrums, experience hypo/hyperactivity, show an insensitivity to pain, participate in self injury and have poor response mechanisms, attention deficits and poor eye contact. Sometimes it can be very difficult to diagnose an adolescent with autism because every child develops differently, sometimes parents are in denial and sometimes children symptoms can contribute to another kind of mental illness. ASD is diagnosed using at least 6 developmental and behavioral characteristics described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If a child’s behavior and growth level fit within the mentioned criteria’s, it is very important to begin treatment as soon as possible, to treat and improve their brain development, academic achievement, functional limitations and their social and work-related performance.
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Parents of children with autism can sometime exhibit overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety and maybe relief when their child is diagnosed with ASD. They are in search of direct answers and life changing remedies. They make life changing decisions and even vow to cure and stand by their child. Through online testimonies, blogs, interactive organizations, research and even literature, parents and guardians of autistic children have the opportunity to connect and build a supportive community to protect, teach and learn with their child. Tracy Beadle, a mom of two autistic children, shares her testimony on Ambitious about Autism., she shares that it’s okay for you [parents] to cry, to question, to feel frustration and to be angry. She encourages parents to take all help offered and to shout vigorously for more. (Source: https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/understanding-autism/diagnosis/diagnosis-one-familys-story).
On websites such as friendshipcircle.org, and autismspeaks.org there are numerous amount of literature that has been manifested in hopes of helping caregivers, guardians and custodians to properly care for individuals with autism. While there is no cure for autism, there are effective treatment options available. Current autism treatments include medications, diets and supplements, and different types of educational and behavioral therapies. Roughly around 50 percent of people with autism take medication. These medications are prescribed to treat conditions and symptoms often found in children and adults with autism, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, self-injury, aggression, and seizure disorders. Antipsychotics drugs are commonly used to treat psychotic symptoms experienced by individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and other mental health disorders. Antidepressants drugs are used primarily to treat depressive disorders but many are also effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Stimulants are drugs primarily used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many children with ASD have similar symptoms of inattention, overactivity, and impulsivity and thus stimulant medications are commonly used. Anticonvulsants is used to treat seizures which occur in as many as one-third of child with autism.
Behavioral, educational, and family therapies can greatly reduce symptoms and support development and learning. Some of these include anger management. Where children practice mindfulness, coping mechanisms, and trigger avoidance to minimize destructive emotional outbursts. Family therapy, which is counseling that helps families resolve conflicts and communicate more effectively. Applied behavior analysis, which is a teaching method that helps autistic children learn socially significant skills by encouraging positive behavior. Behavior therapy, which is a therapy focused on modifying harmful behaviors associated with psychological distress. Also, Telepractice using high-speed Internet, webcams, Skype, and other communication technologies to provide speech therapy from a distant location. Sensory processing which is the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. And lastly animal-assisted therapy using animals to enhance the physical, emotional, and social well-being of humans.
Through observations of my cousin Tennille who has autism I can personally attest the wonders of ABA therapy. Tennille was a full-term baby delivered with no complications. As a baby she was healthy and her motor development was within normal limits for the major milestones of sitting, standing, and walking. At age 2 Tennille knew around 10 words but didn’t use them functionally. She communicated through nonverbal means. Tennille made requests primarily by reaching for her parent’s hand and placing it on the desired object. She lacked social skills, had trouble making eye contact with listeners, and usually played by herself at daycare. This prompted her teacher to recommend she be tested. After being diagnosed with Autism she was provided ABA therapy 10 hours a week at home. For 2 hours each day with behavior analysts focused on labeling, requesting items and food, identifying body parts, and common objects. Tennille’s parents also developed communication goals for her at home. In the past years, Tennille has made considerable progress. She demonstrated more interest and awareness of her surroundings and began approaching other children and initiating interactions with them. Her vocabulary and enunciation both greatly improved. Her attention span improved and she was more able to stay focused on lessons. She’s very observant and much quicker to respond to requests. With ABA and speech therapy she became a totally different person. Her mother reported that she was much more relaxed overall and was much more pleasant to be around. Though ABA therapy worked wonders for Tennille it might not be for everyone. Some children might require a more intensive approach.
Organizations like Disney have stepped up and made changes to the program providing access to guests with disabilities. I believe on a federal level policy is already in effect to help many children diagnosed with autism get the medical coverage to in order to get the proper autism treatment. As a society we need to do more. Not stigmatize people with autism or people with any disability. It seems as though that once you have a disability that is all you have. Society has to stop isolating people with disabilities. Making them seem as though there less than or broken and in need of fixing.
Over a billion people live with some form of disability. People with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. Disability is now understood to be a human rights issue. People are disabled by society, not just by their bodies. Disability oppression and marginalization is the process of pushing a particular group or groups of people to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place in it. Through both direct and indirect processes, marginalized groups may be relegated to a secondary position or made to feel as if they are less important than those who hold more power or privilege in society.