What is autism? This seems to be such a hot topic right now, and with it being Autism Awareness Month I wanted to put some information out there about it. Autism can have many different characteristics, but the main ones are difficulties in behavior, social interaction, communication and sensory sensitivities. Children are born with autism, but sometimes it can take years to diagnose. No one knows exactly what causes it. It probably has something to do with the child’s genes and other things that change the way the brain develops.

When is autism diagnosed? At every well visit we check the child’s developmental status and are constantly looking for signs. We start screening for autism at 9 months old. We repeat the screen at 18 months and again at 24 months of age. More important than any screen is what you, the parents, see at home. If you ever have any concerns it is very important that you let your pediatrician know. If a screen is positive or the we think that there may be some signs of autism we will work with our team of specialists to try and figure out the correct diagnosis.

What is the treatment for autism? While there is no cure for autism, the sooner we can diagnose it the sooner we can start treatment. Because autism involves difficulties with behavior, social interactions, communication and sensory sensitivities the mainstay of treatment lies in dealing with these areas. Doctors, therapists, and special education teachers can help kids learn to talk, play, and learn through ABA, speech and occupational therapy.

What is ABA therapy? Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. Its has been around since the 1960s. It applies the understanding of how behavior works to real world situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. One of the best things about ABA is that it is a very flexible treatment. Each child has a plan tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. You can do it anywhere, whether its at home or school. It can be done with the child alone or in a group setting and it helps teach skills that your child will use on a daily basis.