FACT: Children and adults with an ASD often care deeply but lack the ability to spontaneously develop empathic and socially connected typical behavior.
FACT: Children and adults with an ASD often want to socially interact but lack the ability to spontaneously develop effective social interaction skills.
FACT: Children and adults with autism spectrum disorders can learn social skills if they receive individualized, specialized instruction and training. Social skills may not develop simply as the result of daily life experiences.
FACT: Parents do not and cannot cause autism spectrum disorders. Although the multiple causes of all autism spectrum disorders are not known, it IS known that parental behavior before, during and after pregnancy does not cause autism spectrum disorders to develop.
FACT: Autism spectrum disorders are increasing across the globe at an alarming rate. Some states are considered to be in an autism epidemic. Many states experienced a 500-1000% increase in the past few years. No one knows the cause or causes for the increase. Better and earlier diagnosis can only account for a fraction of the current increases in numbers.
FACT: Autism related disorders are developmental disabilities and neuro-biological disorders. These disorders manifest in early childhood (usually before the age of three or four) and are likely to last the lifetime of the person.
FACT: Many people with autism spectrum disorders are being successful living and working and are contributing to the well being of others in their communities. This is most likely to happen when appropriate services are delivered during the child's free, appropriate, public education years.
FACT: Autism spectrum disorders are not degenerative. Children and adults with autism should continuously improve.* They are most likely to improve with specialized, individualized services and opportunities for supported inclusion. If they are not improving, make changes in service delivery.
FACT: More families are experiencing multiple members with an ASD than ever before. In some families, parents with an ASD were misdiagnosed or never diagnosed. In some families, many or all siblings are in the autism spectrum. Most often, one child with autism is born into families who do not have other family members with an autism spectrum disorder.
FACT: Most people with autism spectrum disorders do not have any special savant skills. Some have "splinter skills", areas of high performance that are not consistent with other skill levels.
FACT: The earlier autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better. Outcomes for children's lives are significantly improved with early diagnosis and treatment. When in doubt, refer, do not wait.
FACT: Students need to know when their classmates have a developmental disability that is likely to effect interactions and learning. Students as young as five years old are able to identify differences in their peers. When students are not given appropriate information, they are likely to draw the wrong conclusions, based on their very limited experiences. Confidentiality rules must be taken into consideration and parental approval sought to teach peers how to understand and interact successfully with children with ASD.
FACT: There is no cure for autism spectrum disorders. Early behavior-based interventions have positive effects on some children with autism and less note-worthy effects on other children. Early services need to be based on individual children's needs and learning styles, not based on programs being sold as "cures" for every child with ASD. Services for adults with the features of autism need to be carefully individualized to the adult.
FACT: Although all children and adults with autism spectrum disorders have three diagnostic features in common, each child with an ASD is a unique individual. People with autism spectrum disorders differ as much from one another as do all people.
FACT: Children and adults with autism spectrum disorders may speak and/or interact with others. They may have good eye contact. They may be verbal or non-verbal. They may be very bright, of average intelligence or have cognitive deficits.
FACT: Educational and adult services delivered to a people with ASD must be specifically designed for each person. Many people with ASD do the best when their services are individualized to them, not designed to be the same for a whole group. Remember that the "I" in IEP or IHP stands for "individualized." (The outcome for education for all children is to be able to belong to the community and contribute. These goals are often best met when the child with an ASD is educated in a community school with access to the typical children who will become the community of the future.)
FACT: Autism Spectrum Disorders can co-occur with any other disorders. It is common to find a person with ASD who also has any of the following: Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments, deafness, blindness, and medical or seizure disorders.
FACT: Autism is diagnosed by looking at the behavior of the individual. If the individual displays specific features of autism, then they may have autism. If you have concerns, an assessment should be completed.
Possible features of autism (summarized) include:
· Qualitative differences in reciprocal social interaction (inability to easily create and sustain relationships)
· Qualitative differences in BOTH verbal and non-verbal communication (not using and responding to
communication signals in a typical way)
· Restricted, repetitive and stereotypic patterns of interests, behavior and activities.
· Onset of these features early in life usually by age 4.
Autism shall mean a developmental disability which significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before the age of three, that adversely affects educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not include children with characteristics of the disability category "behavioral disorder."
ASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability recognized by the manifestation of behavioral characteristics across multiple areas of functioning.
Characteristics are observed, to varying degrees, in social relatedness, communication, pattern and range of interests, and sensory responsiveness. These characteristics are generally evident during the child's early years.
In Nebraska Rule 51, the definition of ASD is sufficiently broad to include those children exhibiting a range of characteristics related to ASD: Autistic Disorder, Rett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
Leo Kanner, 1896-1981
In 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner published a paper describing a group of I I children who were similar to each other, but quite different from any other group of children diagnosed with childhood disorders. Kanner's description of these children included their inability to develop relationships with people, delay or absence of speech, and, in many cases, compulsiveness in their need for sameness and routine. He also noted some repetitive or stereotyped behaviors and an overall lack of imaginative play. Kanner described the children in his report as having a generally normal physical appearance, but recorded a few abnormalities evident during infancy, including unresponsiveness when held. The criteria used in diagnosing and verifying autism today are remarkably similar to those first described by Dr. Kanner. Because this population of individuals was very isolated and aloof, Kanner used the term "autism" to describe them; autism means "self."
Kanner theorized that some of the characteristics of autism were manifested from birth or early infancy and, thus, labeled the disability "early infantile autism". As early as 1911, Eugene Bleuler had used the term "autism" to describe a symptom of schizophrenia, because of the social relatedness deficit that is characteristic of schizophrenia. (Bleuler's study as cited in Rutter, 1979). Unfortunately, the association between autism and schizophrenia remained for many years.
After Kanner's first report, the search for a cause stimulated the development of many theories, most of which were later discarded. While Kanner held that the disorder was present at birth, he also thought the disorder could be improved or worsened by environmental influences. As late as 1967, Bruno Bettleheim proposed that parents' extremely negative feelings directed at the infant and lack of nurturance and love caused the child to retreat into his/her own world. (Bettleheim's study as cited in Cantwell, Baker, & Rutter, 1979). Although this hypothesis has since been disproved by research, many parents experienced unnecessary guilt and anguish for many years as a result of this theory.