The Autism Spectrum: Where Does Your Learner Stand?

The Autism Spectrum: Where Does your Learner Stand?

A common misconception about autism is that all children diagnosed with the disorder have exactly the same symptoms. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it has a complex range of symptoms: mild to severe.  The only similarities children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have in common are symptoms that are a direct result of the neurological disorder. These similarities are lack or absence of communication skills, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors, and difficulty or lack of interpersonal or social skills.

Here are the five classifications that fall under the autism spectrum disorder or ASD, listed in order of mild to severe intensity:

Asperger’s Syndrome  
Within the autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome is considered to be the mildest. It is a high-functioning form of ASD wherein the symptoms of this disorder are a lack of social and communication skills yet verbal skills and intelligence are normal.
The most distinct characteristic of Asperger’s is that sufferers tend to be obsessive with an object or an activity, making them oblivious to other things or people around them. Children with Asperger’s are also observed to have difficulty in understanding body language and tend to be literal with words.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified – PDD-NOS  
PDD-NOS is a catch-all diagnosis meaning that a child may exhibit some symptoms of autism yet does not specifically fall within any other category within the spectrum. To be diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a child may show some characteristics of autism yet cannot be categorized in the other four classifications. Furthermore, a child may even have a severe deficit in language skills yet still not enough to be categorized.
Autistic Disorder  
Also called classic autism, children diagnosed with autism disorder exhibit more severe symptoms than those with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. These children lack intuitive social skills, which makes them react adversely to being touched and making eye contact. Children with autism disorder also present more severe cases of repetitive behavior, unconventional gestures, and unresponsiveness to other people. Many children with the autistic disorder need to be watched closely as they are prone to hurting others and causing self-injury.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder  
This condition is one of the most severe cases within the autism spectrum disorder. A child diagnosed with this disorder exhibits a pronounced loss in motor, language, and social skills and a dramatic loss in vocabulary skills. Comorbid medical conditions such as loss of bowel and bladder control, seizures, and low IQ are commonly associated with childhood disintegrative disorder.
Rett’s Syndrome  

Rett’s syndrome is on the severe end of the autism spectrum. Children with this disorder exhibit deterioration of mental, social, and communication skills. Children with Rett’s syndrome are unresponsive, even to parents, and avoid social contact, and can even stop talking. Physical manifestations include the inability to control their feet and constant wringing of their hands in addition to an obvious reduction in muscle tone, causing the child to appear “floppy”. Comorbid medical conditions such as scoliosis, leaky gut syndrome, cardiac problems, swallowing problems, and erratic sleeping problems can also be present.

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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself. I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were. Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to. My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

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