Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects many children. It continues to be an important public health concern. There is strong evidence that genetic factors play a critical role. It affects a child’s social skills such as difficulty making friends or knowing when to use gestures or make eye contact when talking to someone.
In 2013, Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS (not otherwise specified) were rolled into one umbrella category: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is characterized by developmental delays, communication problems, abnormal social skills, learning disabilities and behavioral problems—all ranging from mild to severe. While some symptoms are apparent during infancy, most children exhibit ASD symptoms between the ages of 1 and 2.
The frequency of being diagnosed with an ASD has increased over the past few decades. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control estimate that ASD affects 1 in 68 children. Currently, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with it, making boys almost 5 times more likely than girls to have this disorder.
It is now known that ASD is not caused by just one thing. Rather, this broad condition can have many different causes. Similarly, there is not just one brain problem found in ASD, but actually 8-10 factors that can influence abnormal brain function.
Originally thought to be genetic in nature but despite much research in this area which has identified many chromosomal differences associated with the condition, an autism genetic test has remained elusive, as these genetic variations are also seen in normal people.
Recent research is pointing towards the environment as being more involved with the development of autism than genetics. Autism could be described as developing following an environmental insult(s) in genetically susceptible individuals.
The studies of people suffering from ASD reveal that their brain patterns tend to have high activity or low activity (and both in some cases).
Low Activity Patterns in ASD:
Traditional methods see autism as a disorder that is primarily behavioral (some even have the word “behavior” in their name). They seek to eliminate or extinguish unwanted behaviors and promote wanted behaviors through repetition, training, and rewards.
In the shadow of our extensive practices, research and treatment, we understand that autism is, at its core, a social relational disorder. Fundamentally, our children, regardless of whether they are not yet verbal or have Asperger’s Syndrome, have difficulty connecting to, relating to, and communicating with others. Sure, our children may have behaviors that look different, but these are symptoms, not causes, and trying to stamp them out is not the answer.
This means that, rather than trying for force our children to conform to a world that they don’t yet understand, we join them in their world first.
We have seen that children on the autism spectrum can: