Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD's) are a group of neurological developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. It is considered a neurobiological disorder because it has to do with the brain structure and development. ASD affects 3 main areas of functioning:
*Communication
*Social
*Repetitive and Stereotypical behaviors.

Related areas of concern include:

*Behavior
*Sensory
*Medical

ASD includes 5 types: Asperger's Disorder/Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS, Rhett's Disorder/Syndrome, and Chidhood Dinstegrative Disorder.

Only Rett's Disorder/Syndrome has a biological test to diagnose it. The other four types are diagnosed by observation of behaviors in comparison to typical childhood development.

An average of 1 in 110 children in the U.S. have an ASD (CDC, 2009).

Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders or Syndromes may include:
Social Skills - difficulties relating to others or may appear withdrawn or in a world of their own.
*Doesn't smile socially
*Prefers to play alone
*Is not interested in other children
*Gets things for himself
*Is very independent
*Has poor eye contact
*Is in her own world
*Tunes us out

Communication - language delays, such as the inability to develop speech, echolalia, and litereral interpretation of language.
Unusual behaviors - obsessions, insistence on routine and sameness and self-stimulatory behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth, and vocalizations.

*Does not respond to his/her name
*Appears deaf at times
*Cannot tell me what (s)he wants
*Doesn't follow directions
*Does not gesture
*Doesn't point or wave bye-bye

Some children do not have speech when they are young, but may develop it later on.

Some people with ASD are not wired for speech and will never speak, or will have different ways to communicate their wants, needs & feelings. If you don't have a way to communicate that others understand, you will act out to get your needs met or acknowledged. For example, if a young child in day care hits herself or another child, all the adults will rush over to them.

Keep our words concrete without sarcasm and figuerative language which some individuals with ASD do not understand. Be sure the student understand what you are saying or asking.

Tell the person what you want him/her TO do, not what NOT to do.

Repetitive & Sterotypical Behaviors:
Obsessions, insistence on routine and sameness, and self-stimulatory behaviors are evident. These behaviors may help a child calm themself, though adults often try to stop them:
*Hand flapping
*Toe walking
*Lining up toys or objects
*Spinning in circles
*Vocal sounds - "eeeee" or "mmmm"
*Rocking back and forth

People with ASD learn which behaviors are acceptable such as bobbing your knee up and down rather than continuously clicking a pen.

Behavioral Issues: All behavior has a function and is a form of communication. Communication is often the underlying reason behind many behaviors. Aggression is not directly related to ASD. Some individuals will have aggression if they can't express what they want.

Things to consider:

*What is the function of the behavior? Some reasons behaviors might occur include stress or anger, fear, obsessive thoughts, excitement, fatigue, overstimulation, or attention from peers or adults
*How does the child communicate? Are they frustrated?
*Does the child have any control over his or her life?
*Does the child have sensory needs & feel bombarded by stimuli? (Fire drills & concerts can be overwhelming; clothing labels and
socks can irritate kin.)
*Behavior of individuals with ASD is often similar in function but has not been socially molded.
*Behavior skills often need to be broken down into easier parts and taught step by step.

Sensory Issues may involve sensitivities to sensory stimulation:

*Hyper-Sensitive (over-reactive to sensory stimulation such as loud voices or clothing irritants)
*Hypo-Sensitive (under-reactive to sensory stimulation such as not perceiving the warning of being burned when touching a hot oven or not reacting when a hand is caught in the car door)

Medical Issues:
*Gastrointestinal symptoms--reported frequency in children with ASD ranging between 70-80% including abdominal pain, diaarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, abdominal posturing, abnormal enzyme function, inadequate digestion, nutrient malabsorption

*Sleep Disorder--difficulty falling alseep, early arousal times, frequent night wakings, increased muscle activity, sleep apnea, possibly associated with food allergies/sensitivities.

*Seizures--reported frequency in children with ASD ranging between 11-39%

*Pica--eating non-food itemss; reported frequency in children with ASD is approximately 30%

*Impaired Detoxification Systems--heavy metal toxicity such as lead, mercury and tin.

*Low Muscle Tone--30% of children with Autism have moderate to severe loss of muscle tone.

*Allergies--respiratory, skin, food

*Movement & Stereotypic Disorders/Tics