Understanding Asperger’s and Autism is critical for parents. A developmental perspective is key to finding help for Autism behaviors, Autism schools and transition to independence for young adults with Autism after high school.
Today, we’ll share our developmental perspective and what is at the core of how we conceptualize and support our clients within Autism Spectrum Disorder, including answering questions like, “what is Asperger’s and high-functioning Autism?”, what intervention methods your loved one may benefit from, and where parents can go for help with Autism diagnosis treatment and educational planning in order to create a clearer path forward designed to reach potential in both school and life.
What you can look forward to in this blog.
- What is Autism
- Diagnosing Autism
- Differences in Autism and Asperger’s
- Treatment for Autism
- Trends in Autism
- Bottom Line Tips for Autism
Each person with a diagnosis within the Autism Spectrum is unique and therefore will have their personal challenges. As the individual and their families know, the symptoms or presentation of Asperger’s and Autism can impact many different areas of one’s life, and it can be hard to know what to do today, let alone what to do tomorrow or a year from now.
UNDERSTANDING AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
We understand how difficult it can be to know what to do today let alone how to plan for tomorrow or two years from now.
First and foremost, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a presentation of diverse neurology often referred to as neuro-diversity or a developmental disability. Said differently, one’s development across different life domains is impacted by one’s neurological makeup that is then reflected in how one develops.
Within the concept of a disorder or disability, one might be described or noticed as seeming different or mildly lagging behind in some way, or showing up as different, developmentally speaking, and when compared with one’s neuro typical peers.
Common Concerns & Behaviors Associated with Autism
Differences in a single person can be noted in one or multiple areas and at any given time in one’s stage of life and may include concerns such as but not limited to:
- Social Communication
- Social reciprocity
- Repetitive behaviors
- Perseverative or obsessive focused thoughts or activities
- Heightened sensitivity to the environment
More specifically and depending on the severity of presentation, individuals diagnosed with Autism may exhibit some or all of the following behaviors:
- Nonverbal communication
- Avoiding eye contact
- Easily upset by small changes in routine
- Issues with Self-regulation
- Self-injurious behavior
- Poor social skills
- Repetitive behaviors or movements
- Sensory sensitivities
- Disrupted attachment and bonding
You might have heard the phrase, “If you have seen one person with Autism you have seen one.” Essentially, Autism presents differently in each person. Each has their own unique recipe or cluster of issues that can range in presentation from barely noticeable to severely compromising to one’s life function.
To summarize, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is said to encompass a broad range of conditions most often characterized by a combination of challenges that might be reflected in or impactful on a person’s speech, learning, relationships, development in thinking, flexibility, and even problem-solving skills.
HOW AUTISM IS DIAGNOSED
It can’t be said enough: Autism is not a one-size-fits-all disorder. Instead, it is an assortment of challenges or a spectrum of conditions that vary from one autistic individual to the next. Autistic individuals have strengths and challenges unique to them, requiring specific care and individualized educational support plans designed to address their particular needs.
The American Psychiatric Association, source of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, commonly referred to as the DSM V, is the standard reference for clarifying and coding the severity and impact or level impairment of ASD on a person’s life.
ICF, the International Classification of Function, Disability and Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) framework for diagnosing individuals with Autism has this to say:
“With a current worldwide prevalence of 1% Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a group of conditions that are characterized by impairments of reciprocal social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as a preference for repetitive, stereotyped activities, behaviors and interests. The age of onset is always prior to 36 months and the symptoms persist throughout the lifespan. These features are associated with alternations in cognitive and emotional functioning, high rates of psychiatric co-morbidity, relationship problems, poor adaptive skills and lower reported quality of life. To capture this complex melange of functioning experiences beyond the diagnosis, the ICF offers a tool to describe the lived experience of a person with ASD in a comprehensive and standardized way.”
Essentially, diagnosis is rendered and reflected with DSM or ICF coding through an assessment based on (1) three areas of impact and (2) three levels of impairment and (3) a reflection of current presentation.
Understanding Testing for Autism
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, commonly referred to as the ADOS-2, can accommodate people across the lifespan. It is considered to be the “gold standard” for evaluating Autism and is administered by trained specialists. The ADOS is administered in the context of a comprehensive age-appropriate evaluation which might also be referred to as an Educational Evaluation, a Psycho Educational Evaluation or a Neuro Psychological Evaluation. School Psychologist, Educational Psychologist and Neuro Psychologists are some professionals who might be trained to administer the evaluation. A child psychologist, pediatric psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist or a developmental pediatrician might also be trained to diagnose ASD.
Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychologist Dr. Stacy Carmichael in Orlando FL describes her testing process as a specialist in evaluating Asperger and ASD.
You can expect school district or an insurance company to have their own diagnostic requirements regarding ABA or OT supports or funding for school-based ASD services under IDEA.
If you have an assessment you can expect to see the categories addressed. Additionally, other qualifiers including language impairment, medical or genetic conditions, emotional or behavioral disorders may be cited.
Areas of impact include:
- Persistent deficits in three areas of social communication and interactions with deficits noted across multiple contexts
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests or activities reflected in at least two ways and whether current or by history
Levels of impairment include:
- 1st Level Requiring support
- 2nd Level Requiring substantial support
- 3rd Level Requiring very substantial support
Level of current impairment include signs or symptoms:
- In early development
- Of impairment in critical areas of life
- That are not better by intellectual impairment or global delay
The CDC, Center for Disease Control, comments on the DSM and criteria for an ASD diagnosis.
Related Challenges & Medical Issues
Aside from the diagnosis and behaviors and challenges already listed in this article, parents and professionals often report a list of other diagnoses, sensory challenges, and medical issues that can accompany an Autism diagnosis, including:
- Social Pragmatic Communication disorder
- Non verbal learning disorder
- PDD NOS
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Muskuloskeletal complaints
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety or depression
- Overwhelming thoughts
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Difficulty paying attention
- Demand Avoidance
- Melt downs and rages
- Disruptive Mood Dysregulative Disorder
- School avoidance
While some autistic individuals may be severely challenged and require significant support, others may have what is commonly referred to as “high-functioning Autism” or “Asperger’s syndrome” allowing them to live a relatively normal life without extra intervention or support from others.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ASPERGER’S AND ASD
So, we know Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses combinations of abilities and inabilities varying from one person to another, but what’s the difference between Asperger and high-functioning Autism?
Between 1994 and 2013, Asperger’s syndrome was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a developmental disorder closely related to high-functioning Autism and less severe than a traditional Autism diagnosis. In 2013, Asperger’s syndrome was demedicalized by the APA and reclassified as an umbrella diagnosis under Autism spectrum disorder.
Although the term “high-functioning Autism” is commonly used, it technically has never been recognized as a clinical diagnosis. Individuals identified as having Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning Autism typically exhibit strong verbal, language, and intellectual abilities, with extraordinary strengths of focus, persistence, aptitude for recognizing patterns, and attention to detail. Challenges for those with this less mild form of Autism may still include things like:
- Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills
- Uncoordinated movements or clumsiness
TREATMENT FOR AUTISM
You have heard it said: “A stitch in time saves nine.” Early intervention is critical when possible.
Although children can be diagnosed between 18 months and two years old, some autistic individuals go years and even decades before they are officially diagnosed. The first step to helping children with Autism is a proper diagnosis from a medical professional.
Research suggests the earlier an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis is made, the more medical professionals and educators can improve the child’s overall development for more positive outcomes later in life. Just as Autism is not the same from one person to the next, Autism treatments are also not easily interchangeable. Treatments for Autism vary based on the individual’s needs, but typically include a mix of the following:
- Social skills training
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Assistive technology
- Medication management to improve symptoms
- Dietary adjustments
- Applied Behavioral Analysis
- CBT shows how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected
- Specialized educational accommodations and services
- Autism Boarding Schools
- GAP year for young adults with Asperger and Autism
- Young Adult Transition for Independence
- Assisted living
- Vocational support
- College Support
- Life Coaching
- Long-term community and wraparound supports
The type of support or treatment is tailored not only to Level and severity but also to age and stage of development. For example, Applied Behavioral Analysis is often preferred for younger individuals, for teens with persistent impulsive or dysregulated and aggressive behaviors or if older then it might be more applicable to a lower cognitive profile incapable of insight
TRENDS IN AUTISM
Autistics: Terminology is shifting. Stigma is lessening. It’s okay to have Autism. Some Autistics are tired of being labeled. Now, a Level I ASD doesn’t have to claim HF ASD or Asperger to be accepted. Autistics are using their voice of lived experience and self-advocating like never before. Temple Grandin is a hero and has a TED talk. A Pod Cast by program owners Debbie and Jason Grygla, parents of young adult Autistic sons, enlighten on Autism, neuro-diversity and adulting in ASD and help inform and normalize the ASD parenting journey.
Myths and Testing: The stereotypical myths are abating though you do want to be alert. Adults can be diagnosed with ASD. Just because a child makes eye contact or uses humor does not disqualify them from ASD. A child can be both coordinated and autistic. The Vineland, while likely utilized in an assessment, is not a primary tool for diagnosis. Read more about Autism Myths.
Employment: Major companies are seeing the value and strengths of autistics and making Autism hiring a priority like never before. Inclusion and access are facilitated by accommodations and ADA. Watch Chase Bank on you-tube to see how they value Autistics and Autism at Work.
BOTTOM LINE TIPS FOR AUTISM
Some say Autism is not a disorder. It’s hard to shift thinking away from Autism as a disorder especially because as parents, we tend to experience the fallout and problem of a child not fitting in or not keeping up or the impact on family life. It can be so challenging to parent the child we have and not try to make them into something they are not.
That said, disorder or not, keep an eye on your son or daughter’s behaviors. Appropriate behaviors at all stages and in all seasons of life are critical for humans. Let’s get real. Whether it is a toddler on the playground, the child at a classmate’s birthday party, participation and reciprocity in the family and life events, or daily living skills, there are behaviors and ways of showing up in the world that help one to be included or invited and other behaviors that tend to get you excluded. I call those behaviors ones that either “rule you in” or are a “rule out” when it comes to fitting in and participating in life. Keep an eye out for the “rule outs.”
Plan For Long Term Help for Autism
Plan for the long game. Think long term and see everything from a developmental lens. Access the right supports at the right stage and time of need. Remediate when the time is right.
An Autism diagnosis can come with many changes for you and your family. With Morgan Guidance, you and your child will have a clear path forward into the future with confidence and hope, knowing you have an experienced and expert therapeutic and educational consultants on your side to guide so your child can discover their full potential.
Together, we will identify your child’s unique strengths, challenges, and desires, and create a plan that addresses each aspect for a brighter, more successful future.
When we partner with you and your loved one, we focus on the whole person. We take into account the challenges and the “rule outs” they face in all areas of their life with ASD and the ones you face trying to support them. We also focus on their strengths, interests, and passions, so we can develop a plan that leads to success in all areas of their life.
You know you want the best for your loved one. Whether that be in terms of their education, future career, independence or simply their day-to-day happiness.
For parents of a child recently diagnosed with Autism, or even a long-time diagnosis, knowing where to go for help after an Autism diagnosis can seem confusing. Luckily, helping students and young adults with Autism is what Morgan Guidance is all about.
SCHEDULE A COMPLIMENTARY GET ACQUAINTED APPOINTMENT TODAY
As your trusted educational and Autism planning professionals for students and young adults, Morgan Guidance has the experience to assist you in creating an action plan. Contact Morgan Guidance today to learn more about how we plan with families and individuals so people with Asperger and Autism can reach their potential in school and in life.
Our Educational Counselors Are Here to Join Your Autism Journey
At Morgan Guidance Services, our educational consultants have supported many individuals remotely in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania or anywhere in the United States with finding and creating a path to happiness and fulfillment with Autism.
Before, the young person was either not in school or in a school that wasn’t the right fit. Before, the young person was exhibiting “rule out” behaviors and needed support to mature so their family didn’t have to walk on egg shells around them all the time. Before, the young adult was stuck at home, angry with parents and craving social interactions that seemed out of reach.
After meeting with our Educational Counselors, they were able to identify the best possible school, get the right therapeutic assistance and eventually identify their passions and gain independence. Plus, if able, they identified a career path that was the right fit for them.
Our educational consultants are here to support you and your loved ones.
Begin Educational and Transitional Planning for Asperger and Autism in Florida, Texas, or Anywhere in the US
You are not alone. Every parent deserves to be well informed when making critical life impacting decisions for a loved one. If you’re interested in creating a clear path forward, let’s connect:
- Reach out with questions or schedule a complimentary consultation
- Talk with an educational consultant
- Get a feel for what is like to work together
OTHER CONSULTING SERVICES OFFERED IN FL, TX, CT, MD & THROUGHOUT THE US
At Morgan Guidance Services our therapeutic consultants offer more than guidance and help for Asperger’s and Autism. We provide support in finding the right choice for therapeutic boarding school and program placement. Additionally, we offer support for Transition Planning, Patient Advocacy, and Career Counseling.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, A CAREER COUNSELOR AND EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT IN FLORIDA
Elaine Morgan is the founder, owner, and lead consultant at Morgan Guidance, a special education consulting firm providing Career and Educational Counseling. She has been working with struggling students and their parents for 40 years. Elaine is known for patient advocacy, parent coaching and her work with neuro-diverse students and adults who are lagging behind their same-age peers and at risk of not reaching their potential due to emotional behavioral health and developmental challenges, especially Asperger’s and ASD.