Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia and Developmental Disorders
Ground-breaking work with neoplastic (brain learning) techniques is yielding results that are re-writing the book on what is possible in brain development.
Autism spectrum, dyslexia and developmental disorders are complex, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Rewiring the brain is a step by step process; there are no quick fixes, but steady progress can be made.
We begin with a comprehensive intake to determine which brain systems are struggling, and what therapies are the most likely to yield results. We will then send you a reading list so you can better understand the various approaches. This is a free service.
Parents know what is working and what isn’t, where their child struggles and where they don’t. A bit of self-education on brain training principles goes a long way in determining the best way forward.
We recommended an integrated ‘back to basics’ approach; retraining the brain from the ground up. Neurofeedback might be one component of the program, however there are many variables.
In broad terms, our approach has three stages. None are easy; all take time. Patience and dedication to the process are key.
Whole brain approach
- First: Nutrition and Digestive health program to reduce toxins and help restore neurotransmitter balance. The goal is to get the brain chemistry into a position where learning and change comes easier. Hypobaric oxygen can also be helpful at this stage.
- Second: Sensory Integration to train basic sensory skills that may have been missed or incomplete in early brain development. AN integrated listening system may be a component in this stage, and at home brain development exercises can make a big difference.
- Third: neurofeedback to help restore function, emotional balance, increase processing speed and improve communication between brain areas.
Symptoms and Diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide degree of variation in the way it affects people. Every child on the autism spectrum has unique abilities, symptoms, and challenges. Learning about the different autism spectrum disorders will help you better understand your own child, get a handle on what all the different autism terms mean, and make it easier to communicate with the doctors, teachers, and therapists helping your child.
But no matter what doctors, teachers, and other specialists call the autism spectrum disorder, it’s your child’s unique needs that are truly important. No diagnostic label can tell you exactly what challenges your child will have. Finding treatment that addresses your child’s needs, rather than focusing on what to call the problem, is the most helpful thing you can do. You don’t need a diagnosis to start getting help for your child’s symptoms.
Sometimes “autism” really means “autism spectrum disorder”
When people use the term autism, it can mean one of two things. They may actually be referring to autistic disorder, or classical autism. But autism is often used in a more general sense to refer to all autism spectrum disorders. So if someone is talking about your child’s autism, don’t assume that he or she is implying that your child has autistic disorder, rather than another autism spectrum disorder. If you’re unsure what is meant, don’t be afraid to ask.
The autism spectrum disorders belong to an “umbrella” category of five childhood-onset conditions known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Some autism specialists use the terms pervasive developmental disorder and autism spectrum disorder interchangeably. However, when most people talk about the autism spectrum disorders, they are referring to the three most common PDDs:
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett Syndrome are the other pervasive developmental disorders. Because both are extremely rare genetic diseases, they are usually considered to be separate medical conditions that don’t truly belong on the autism spectrum.
Where does your child fall on the autism spectrum?
The three autism spectrum disorders share many of the same symptoms, but they differ in their severity and impact. Classic autism, or autistic disorder, is the most severe of the autism spectrum disorders. Milder variants are Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes called high-functioning autism, and PDD-NOS, or atypical autism. According to the Autism Spectrum Resource Center, only 20% of people on the autism spectrum have classic autism. The overwhelming majority fall somewhere on the milder range of the spectrum.
Since the autism spectrum disorders share many similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other, particularly in the early stages. If your child is developmentally delayed or exhibits other autism-like behaviors, you will need to visit a medical professional for a thorough evaluation. Your doctor can help you figure out where, or even if, your child fits on the autistic spectrum.
In both children and adults, the signs and symptoms of the autism spectrum disorders include problems with social skills, speech and language, and restricted activities and interests. However, there are enormous differences when it comes to the severity of the symptoms, their combinations, and the patterns of behavior.
Keep in mind that just because your child has a few autism-like symptoms, it doesn’t mean he or she has an autism spectrum disorder. The autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt your child’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play, and learn.
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:
- Unusual or inappropriate body language, gestures, and facial expressions (e.g. avoiding eye contact or using facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying)
- Lack of interest in other people or in sharing interests or achievements (e.g. showing you a drawing, pointing to a bird)
- Unlikely to approach others or to pursue social interaction; comes across as aloof and detached; prefers to be alone
- Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and nonverbal cues
- Resistance to being touched
- Difficulty or failure to make friends with children the same age
Speech and language
Problems with speech and language comprehension are a telltale sign of the autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:
- Delay in learning how to speak (after the age of two) or doesn’t talk at all
- Speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
- Repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent
- Trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going
- Difficulty communicating needs or desires
- Doesn’t understand simple statements or questions
- Taking what is said too literally, missing humor, irony, and sarcasm
Restricted behavior and play
Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:
- Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly
- Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches)
- Preoccupation with a specific topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (maps, license plates, sports statistics)
- A strong need for sameness, order, and routines (e.g. lines up toys, follows a rigid schedule). Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
- Clumsiness, abnormal posture, or odd ways of moving
- Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys (e.g. spinning the wheels on a race car, instead of playing with the whole car)
How children with autism spectrum disorders play
Children with autism spectrum disorders tend to be less spontaneous than other kids. Unlike a typical curious little kid pointing to things that catch his or her eye, autistic children often appear disinterested or unaware of what’s going on around them. They also show differences in the way they play. They may have trouble with functional play, or using toys that have a basic intended use, such as toy tools or cooking set. They usually don’t “play make-believe,” engage in group games, imitate others, or use their toys in creative ways.
While not part of autism’s official diagnostic criteria, children with autism spectrum disorders often suffer from one or more of the following problems:
- Sensory problems – Many children with autism spectrum disorders either underreact or overreact to sensory stimuli. At times they may ignore people speaking to them, even to the point of appearing deaf. However, at other times they may be disturbed by even the softest sounds. Sudden noises such as a ringing telephone can be upsetting, and they may respond by covering their ears and making repetitive noises to drown out the offending sound. Children on the autism spectrum also tend to be highly sensitive to touch and to texture. They may cringe at a pat on the back or the feel of certain fabric against their skin.
- Emotional difficulties – Children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. When stressed, he or she may exhibit disruptive or even aggressive behavior (breaking things, hitting others, or harming him or herself). The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also notes that autistic kids may be unfazed by real dangers like moving vehicles or heights, yet be terrified of harmless objects such as a stuffed animal.
- Uneven cognitive abilities – The autism spectrum disorders occur at all intelligence levels. However, even kids with normal to high intelligence often have unevenly developed cognitive skills. Not surprisingly, verbal skills tend to be weaker than nonverbal skills. In addition, children with Autism spectrum disorders typically do well on tasks involving immediate memory or visual skills, while tasks involving symbolic or abstract thinking are more difficult.
Savant skills in autism spectrum disorders
Approximately 10% of people with autism spectrum disorders have special “savant” skills, such as Dustin Hoffman portrayed in the film Rain Man. The most common savant skills involve mathematical calculations, artistic and musical abilities, and feats of memory. For example, an autistic savant might be able to multiply large numbers in his or her head, play a piano concerto after hearing it once, or quickly memorize complex maps.
The road to an autism diagnosis can be difficult and time-consuming. In fact, it is often two to three years after the first symptoms of autism are recognized before an official diagnosis is made. This is due in large part to concerns about labeling or incorrectly diagnosing the child. However, an autism diagnosis can also be delayed if the doctor doesn’t take a parent’s concerns seriously or if the family isn’t referred to health care professionals who specialize in developmental disorders.
If you’re worried that your child has autism, it’s important to seek out a medical diagnosis. But don’t wait for that diagnosis to get your child into treatment. Early intervention during the preschool years will improve your child’s chances for overcoming his or her developmental delays. So look into treatment options and try not to worry if you’re still waiting on a definitive diagnosis. Putting a potential label on your kid’s problem is far outweighed by the need to treat the symptoms.
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorders
In order to determine whether your child has autism, a related autism spectrum disorder, or another developmental condition, clinicians look carefully at the way your child socializes, communicates, and behaves. Diagnosis is based on the patterns of behavior that are revealed.
If you are concerned that your child has an autism spectrum disorder and developmental screening confirms the risk, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to refer you immediately to an autism specialist or team of specialists for a comprehensive evaluation. Since the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is complicated, it is essential that you meet with experts who have training and experience in this highly specialized area.
Contact our office for a complimentary consultation at (828) 885-7100