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Autism: Symptoms and Signs

Dr. Genevieve Marshall, BCBA, breaks down myths about autism, the early signs of autism, and what you can do to keep yourself informed on best practices. To learn more about ABA therapy and services available to you, visit https://learnbehavioral.com/services/find-a-location

Advocating for Your Family and Good, Contemporary ABA With Arfa Alam

Arfa Alam is a senior manager at the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit that envisions a dynamic and innovative federal government that effectively serves our diverse nation. Prior to joining the Partnership, Arfa performed labor human rights and social responsibility work in more than 40 countries in both the public and private sectors. Arfa joins us to share her experience and deep conviction for the appropriate care, and rights for all. She is the proud mother, wife, and sister of disabled and differently-abled individuals, including her two autistic sons, her husband who lives with early onset Parkinson’s disease, and her twin sister, who is deaf and was the first person in life to teach her about differences and empathy. 

As she shares, “As a first-generation American, it is particularly important to me to bring awareness, acceptance, and inclusion to our communities for individuals with disabilities and neurodivergences.” Arfa’s passion for public service stems from her experience as a first-first-generation Muslim-American with special needs family members. We are grateful for the opportunity to have this discussion with Arfa and we look forward to having her with us again soon.

For more information:

https://www.bestbuddies.org/

https://marybarbera.com/

All autism talk (allautismtalk.com) is sponsored by LEARN Behavioral (learnbehavioral.com).

What Causes Autism? Understanding the Latest Research

Hanna Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D, chief clinical officer

What does science say about what causes autism? The latest research indicates that a combination of genetic and environmental factors likely causes it.

There’s no simple answer, and scientists are still trying to develop better ones. “What caused my child’s autism? Was I to blame?” As David G. Amaral, Ph.D., a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at the University of California Davis wrote in 2017 in the journal Cerebrum, “Autism research has made tremendous progress over the last 20 years, but yet we still can’t provide definitive answers to most of these questions.”

What We Know for Sure

What we know for sure is that autism is a complex condition. It’s not caused by one single factor. The exact cause is still not fully understood, making it a subject of ongoing research.

Much of that research involves two main categories:

  1. Genetic factors: Scientists have found that certain gene changes, unusual gene combinations, and other genetic conditions can make a person more likely to have autism.
  2. Environmental factors: Since genetic factors don’t always lead to autism, that suggests that environmental factors could play a role. That could include factors, such as prenatal exposure to certain drugs or chemicals, complications during birth, or advanced parental age at the time of conception.

What Myths about Autism Science Has Debunked

Science has debunked several myths about autism, most notably the claim that vaccines cause autism. Large-scale studies have proven this theory to be false. Other debunked myths include the idea that autism is caused by parenting style or that it’s a mental health disorder. Autism is actually a neurological disorder resulting from differences in brain development.

It’s also worth noting that the prevalence of autism is rising, but this doesn’t necessarily mean more people are becoming autistic. An article in Scientific American explains that the bulk of the increase in autism rates stems from growing awareness of autism and better diagnostic methods.

Where Research Is Headed

The latest research in autism focuses on understanding the genetic and neurological aspects of the condition. Studies are further examining the perceptions of counselors in treating children with autism, which could help improve therapeutic approaches.

Other research is debunking more myths about vaccination risks related to autism. Still other researchers are looking into the intersection of autism in adulthood and the LGBTQ+ community. And some new research is looking into how certain proteins associated with autism interact with other molecules, shaping synaptic plasticity.

Our Understanding of Autism Is Evolving

Yet the most basic question — “What caused my child’s autism?” — may have no simple answer. Little by little, our understanding of what causes autism is evolving.

It’s becoming clearer that the causes of autism are multifaceted. While we might not have all the answers now, we are continuing to unravel the complexities of autism.

The Autism Diagnosis Process: What to Expect

When it comes to parenting, the unknown can be one of the hardest parts. Worries creep in if you suspect something’s wrong with your child’s development. If you think your child may be showing signs of autism, there’s no guidebook to tell you what to do next.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed. The process gets easier when you know what to expect.

If you’ve found your way to this post, you’ve likely taken the first step: questioning whether your child shows signs of autism.

Recognizing this possibility is a significant and sometimes challenging move. Rest assured, you’re not alone. This guide is here to provide you with valuable insights and support as you navigate through this process.

Understanding Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects how a person interacts, learns, and behaves. Everyone on the spectrum is different. Signs of autism usually start showing up when a child is very young.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Autism symptoms can be different for everyone. If your child is not growing or learning like other kids their age, or if they have any of the following signs, you might want to talk to your pediatrician:

  • Not smiling at others by six months
  • Not gesturing or pointing to communicate by 12 months
  • Not babbling by 12 months
  • Not using single words like “no,” “mama,” “dada” by 16 months
  • Not using two-word phrases like “want cup,” “go play” by 24 months
  • Not responding to sounds, voices, or their own name by three years
  • Poor eye contact by three years
  • Little interest in other children or caretakers by three years
  • Losing skills they once had at any point by three years

The Diagnosis Process

Getting a diagnosis of autism starts with an evaluation. Experts will examine how a child behaves and will look at their past development. If your child’s pediatrician thinks it might be autism, they’ll send your child to an expert for a closer look. This process includes:

  • A parent interview
  • Review of medical, psychological, and school records
  • Assessment of cognitive, developmental, and adaptive functioning skills
  • Observation of your child during play

What Happens Next?

After an autism evaluation, our team of specialists will review and interpret the results. If your child is diagnosed with autism, our team will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. This plan includes therapies to help improve communication, social skills, and behavior.

At LEARN, we work with families on a plan tailored to your family’s needs. We will adjust the treatment plan as needed. We’ll also provide you with resources and support.

Whether you’re just noticing signs or you’re already deep into the diagnosis process, our team is here to help. We know that recognizing and diagnosing autism can be challenging. But with the right support and guidance, you can navigate it confidently.

Why Early Diagnosis Matters For Children With Autism

Why does early diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) matter? Dr. Genevieve Marshall explains early signs of autism, how to receive an evaluation, and what to do after a diagnosis. Be sure to subscribe for more helpful tips and discover more resources by checking out our blog here: https://lrnbvr.com/Blogs

Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, Learning Center Opening

Mount Pleasant Learning Center: Specialized Autism Therapy in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) and Total Spectrum proudly announce the successful opening of the Mount Pleasant Learning Center.

The Learning Center, which focuses on providing specialized and comprehensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy services for children with autism, officially opened on March 20.

It’s a place that fosters learning, socialization, and independence for children on the autism spectrum.

Tailored Treatment for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“At our Mount Pleasant location, we hope to bring families in the Greater Racine County area compassionate, contemporary ABA therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder,” Linda Klotz, WEAP’s clinical director, said at the opening event.

“With a focus on tailored treatment, this new Learning Center offers individualized interventions to meet the specific needs and interests of each learner,” she said. “We couldn’t be more excited to open our doors to the community and provide these necessary services.”

Partnership Focuses on Helping Kids with Autism Thrive

Operated jointly by WEAP and Total Spectrum, organizations with a combined 35 years of experience serving children with autism across Wisconsin, the Mount Pleasant Learning Center provides a holistic approach to assessment, diagnosis, and treatment to help children achieve their full potential.

The grand opening of the Mount Pleasant Learning Center allowed families to meet key members of the leadership team and featured participation from the local community, tours of the facility, and spring-themed activities for families.

“In Kenosha, we’re honored to be included at such a great event,” Kenosha Chamber of Commerce President Dave Strash said at the opening. “We are all about the business community celebrating business successes, and one of our favorite things to do is a ribbon cutting — especially celebrating a much-needed service like the one you guys are providing to the community goes beyond words.”

To find out more about the Mount Pleasant Learning Center, visit https://wiautism.com/blog/tour-our-mt-pleasant-aba-therapy-learning-center

Shaping the Future: Influential Women in Autism and ABA Therapy

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women in all walks of life.

In the area of autism and contemporary applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, many women have made a lasting mark. They’ve broken barriers. They’ve conducted significant research, and they’ve paved the way for better understanding and treatment of autism.

Today, we spotlight seven women who have shown us what it means to lead with passion, dedication, and commitment. They are making a difference, and their work continues to inspire future generations of women in the field.

1. Temple Grandin: The Trailblazing Voice in Autism Advocacy

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a name synonymous with autism advocacy. Born in 1947, she was diagnosed with autism in early childhood. Despite the challenges, she went on to become an esteemed academic and animal behaviorist. She has gained recognition for writing books and delivering speeches on autism and animal behavior. Today, she is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

2. Greta Thunberg: Championing Climate Action and Autism Acceptance

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist. She has gained global recognition for her efforts to fight climate change. She’s also known for being openly autistic. She has referred to her autism as her “superpower,” and has discussed how it has helped her in her activism by allowing her to focus intensely on topics that interest her. Greta has used her platform to advocate for acceptance and understanding of autism. On her Facebook page, she identifies herself as an “Autistic climate justice activist.”

3. Breanna Clark: Shattering World Records and Autism Stereotypes

Breanna Clark is an American Paralympic athlete who was diagnosed with autism at age 4. She competes in T20 category races, a classification for athletes with intellectual impairments. She has represented athletes with autism on an international stage. Off the track, she’s been an advocate and role model for people with autism.

4. Ronit Molko: A Powerful Force in Autism Therapy and Entrepreneurship

Ronit Molko, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is another luminary in the field. She is a thought leader and subject matter expert in autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, and behavioral healthcare. She co-founded Autism Spectrum Therapies (acquired by Learn It Systems) and is a LEARN Behavioral board member. In this All Autism Talk podcast, she talks about how ongoing research is helping us better understand the unique challenges girls with autism face.

5. Devon Sundberg: Shaping the Future of ABA Therapy and Autism Awareness

Devon Sundberg, MS, BCBA, co-founded the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (BACA). She has made significant contributions to the field of behavior analysis, both through her work at BACA and as the founder of the Women in Behavior Analysis conference. In this All Autism Talk podcast, she shares how raising three daughters helped open her eyes to how gendered life can be — and about the need for more women in the autism field.

6. Hanna Rue: Pioneering Innovations in Autism Treatment and Research

Hanna Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is chief clinical officer for LEARN Behavioral. Her research interests are broad and include the identification of evidence-based practices for the treatment of autism. Her influence in the field of autism is evident in her wide-ranging work that spans clinical care, research, and advocacy. She has made significant contributions to STEM fields, sharing her insights through various platforms, including top-performing podcast episodes about autism, and extending her influence and reach in the autism community.

7. Sabrina Daneshvar: Revolutionizing the Field with Innovation and Compassion

Sabrina Daneshvar, Ph.D., BCBA-D, serves as the senior vice president of clinical services at LEARN Behavioral. Her research interests include video modeling and teaching social skills. This work has contributed to developing innovative strategies for improving social skills in children with autism. Sabrina has also taught, mentored, and trained many graduate students pursuing their degrees.

These are just a few women who have helped to shape the field of autism and ABA therapy. Their work underscores the importance of early intervention, peer support, and recognizing the diverse signs and symptoms of autism in girls and women.

We celebrate these women and everyone who has made contributions to advance our understanding of autism. They provide hope and inspiration to countless families across the world affected by it.