Autism Spectrum Disorder
(A Speech-Language Pathologists’ Perspective)
As a therapist in pediatric land, it is extremely common to have children on my caseload who demonstrate with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of the most difficult conversations I can have with a family is discussing ‘red flags’ for autism, particularly when their own child demonstrates these signs and symptoms. Though it is not within my scope of practice to diagnose ASD, I have many years treating children who have autism and building relationships as well as supporting my clients’ families.
For some families, it is hard to accept this diagnosis or even come to terms with the possibility of their child falling on the spectrum. For other families, it’s a sense of relief to have a health care professional validate their concerns and to help guide them in the next steps with having their child further evaluated. I’ve witnessed anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, guilt, the whole gamut when families are given information regarding signs and symptoms of ASD.
As a pediatric therapist, it is my responsibility to inform my families and help equip them on how to best meet their child’s needs. Having a diagnosis would not dictate the types of goals targeted in my own therapy session. However, should their child receive a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, resources are more readily available to these families. What matters the most is that my families have access to various resources to get the help they need to aid in their child’s success.
What are the red flags, you might ask? During our evaluation, I take note of whether or not your child responds to their name by the time they are 1-years-old, whether or not they are able to maintain eye contact, plays functionally with toys as well as engaging in symbolic play, interacts with peers or if they prefer to isolate themselves, is repetitive with words or phrases (known as echolalia), fixates on specific toys, engages in hand flapping/repetitive rocking or spinning in circles, has difficulty with transitions and is rigid in their daily routine, has deficits in self regulatory skills, and perhaps the most obvious sign – is delayed in speech and language skills. Parents of children who have the diagnosis of ASD often report a regression in previously acquired skills. Other parents report that they cannot seem to connect with their child the way they can with their typically developing kiddo, and that they are often inconsolable
Often, parents will inform me about all of the skills their child has which go against autism. “But my child is highly social,” “He looks me right in the eyes”, “She talks in long sentences.” “He’s just quirky – all kids have their quirks!” The list goes on. This is why they call it a spectrum – no child looks the same. Some of my clients are highly gifted, while others are on the ‘severe end’ of the spectrum.
I may not have children of my own, but I am one proud auntie of a beautiful 3-year-old boy who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder earlier this year. His name is Rocky, and he is AWESOME. He has a significant speech and language delay, so of course given my career choice, I have been “treating” my nephew to help him gain functional communication skills. Not to mention, my little man requires some feeding intervention! We see this a lot with kiddos on the spectrum – problem feeders are otherwise known as picky eaters.
Since his diagnosis, Mama Bear (my sister) diligently worked to get Rocky into a developmental preschool and started occupational therapy. He continues to be seen by his speech therapist, and his “Auntie Set” on weekends. ABA is underway, and we are optimistic for Rocky. He is already thriving, loves his school and classmates, and works hard with all of his therapists. Some days are better than others, but isn’t that the case with anyone?
If you suspect your child may be showing signs of autism, or if he or she is delayed in their developmental milestones, do not hesitate to get them seen! Research reveals that early intervention services can considerably mitigate the effects of developmental delays. Early diagnosis and treatment for developmental delays increases the chances of improvement rather than simply “waiting it out” and treating problems later. Your pediatric specialists are here for you and have your child’s best interests in mind
For more information, visit the following website:
Lisette M. – MS, CCC-SLP