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Help With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that can cause problems with thinking, feeling, language and the ability to relate to others.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Dec 16, 2019
How Common are Mental Health Disorders Among Children and Teens?

An estimated 15% of children and adolescents will be diagnosed with a mental disorder before age 18, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry last month.

  • Oct 11, 2019
Small Study Indicates that Markers in Baby Teeth May Provide Clues to ADHD and Autism

Researchers have recently identified markers in baby teeth that are unique to attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder and individuals with both conditions. The research suggests that the processing of nutrients and toxins plays a role in these conditions, according to authors Christine Austin, Ph.D., with Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and colleagues.

  • Jun 24, 2019
Researchers Explore New Technologies to Help People with Autism

 Researchers are exploring new ways to use technology to help children and adults with autism. For example, the University of California’s MIND Institute has a targeted program, Autism, Community and Technology, that is working to help make autism services and treatments more accessible and affordable for families in need through technology.

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How early can autism be identified? What should parents do if they are concerned their young child may have autism?

Some of the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be noticed before the age of 1, although a reliable diagnosis by an autism specialist can be made in children as young as 18 months of age. Unfortunately many children end up waiting until after their 4th birthday to be diagnosed with ASD. Delays in seeking an initial assessment and limited access to specialists are just a couple of factors that help to explain this delay. Children who have less severe ASD, or are from minority backgrounds, tend to be diagnosed later than those with severe symptoms. Researchers are developing ways of being able to diagnose autism at even younger ages, such as using eye tracking technologies. The diagnosis of autism is typically based on a clinical examination, which is often supported with other information and tests. There is no single scan or blood test that can independently diagnose autism.

My advice to parents is to trust their gut instinct when they are worried about their child and to seek the advice of their primary care pediatrician. This general assessment may then lead to a referral to a specialist who will perform a more comprehensive evaluation. Parents should also feel empowered to ask for a specialist opinion if they do not feel adequately reassured by a primary care evaluation. More

Can children “grow out” of autism?

A small minority of children show considerable improvement in their ASD symptoms following diagnosis. While ASD has historically been considered a life-long condition, recent research has shown that the outcomes associated with an ASD diagnosis can vary considerably. Some people who were diagnosed with ASD in their youth may improve dramatically, and show little difference to people who have never had the diagnosis.

Whether these individuals “grew out” of autism, or simply responded exceptionally well to the therapeutic interventions, remains up for debate. One should also question if the initial diagnosis of ASD was accurate in these cases. At the moment it is difficult to identify which children will “grow out” of autism, although those who have less severe symptoms and those who obtain early access to the appropriate therapies appear to have better outcomes. More

There is so much information about therapies, treatments and diets for children with autism — how do I know what’s right for my child?

Parents naturally want the best for their child, and many will try different treatments, diets and therapies to help their loved one. It is difficult to cover all of the numerous therapies but here are the key points:

  1. Medical and psychiatric conditions that co-exist with ASD should be identified and treated by a suitably trained physician. These can include immune problems, digestive problems and ADHD.
  2. Natural therapies or treatments are often advertised as being safe and effective. Unfortunately most of these treatments do not have high quality scientific evidence that supports either claim. Some parents have described improvements in their child by using specialized diets. The most important point here is to make sure the child receives enough calories and nutrients regardless of the dietary change.
  3. Parents should be very cautious of treatments that are advertised as being able to “cure” autism; these claims are often of a dubious nature.



About the Expert:

Arshya Vahabzadeh, M.D.
Vice President, Health Strategy and Communications
Brain Power, LLC

Adam’s Story

Adam, a 12-year-old boy, was brought in by his mother for psychiatric evaluation. He had temper tantrums that were causing problems for him at school. She said that school had always been stressful for Adam and that it had become worse after he entered middle school.

Read More 

Editor's Choice

APR 1, 2019

10 Things Parents of Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorder Wish You Knew
Good Housekeeping

While early intervention is a critical and important step, having a diagnosis only takes parents so far. Parenting a child with ASD is a lifelong journey, and one that's easily misunderstood by people who are not having the same experience. Here, parents of those with ASD tell us what they wish everyone knew.

  • There may be a lot more going on than you might not notice at first.
  • No two people with ASD are exactly alike, and one person with ASD isn't the same all the time, either.

APR 8, 2019

Assistive technology does not stop speech in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder 
The Star Online

With the development of touchscreen mobile devices and apps, high tech AAC has become more accessible. But the biggest challenge therapists face in using AAC – even low tech ones like sign language and visual cards – is that parents worry that their children will come to rely on it, and will not develop speech. “So much research has proved that there is no negative effect to using AAC. The positive effect is that the child might start speaking but it certainly will not stop the child from speaking,” stresses Dr Susheel.

APR 1, 2019

Autism awareness: Screening for autism can begin as early as 16 months, experts say

CBS News

Tanner was diagnosed with autism at 2 and a half years old. But not all children in the U.S. are diagnosed as early as they can be. That's something the advocacy organization Autism Speaks is hoping to change, because early intervention can help improve children's lives.