New England Psychological Assessment Center, Inc.

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What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

This is a biologically based developmental condition.  Although estimates vary, it is considered that approximately 1 in 59 children born today may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

The following are some of the signs and symptoms or behaviors that may be present with an individual with an autism spectrum disorder:

  • Difficulty in developing peer relationships
  • Lack of back and forth or give and take in social interactions
  • Use of rather scripted or repetitive speech
  • Poor eye contact
  • Underactive or overactive imagination
  • Need for sameness and experiences stress with changes in routine
  • A “stickler” for rules
  • Intense interests which dominate conversations and “turn others off”
  • Clumsiness in motor activities 
  • Difficulty in interpreting others’ body language and understanding others’ emotions
  • Tendency toward literal or concrete thinking
  • Difficulty in understanding humor or sarcasm
  • Odd behaviors or mannerisms
  • Sensory sensitivities such as to sounds, touch, smells and certain tastes
  • Remarkable honesty
  • Delay in the development of skills involving persuasion, compromise and conflict resolution
  • Not knowing when something may cause embarrassment for another
  • The presence of anxiety and/or depression
  • Resistance to or discomfort in being hugged.

Potential Treatment Strategies 

Treatment strategies are available to lessen the impact of difficulties associated with an autism spectrum disorder and enable the individual to reach their full potential.  These strategies can include (depending on the individual’s age, developmental levels and specific areas of need):

  • Parent and teacher education
  • Structured social skills programs
  • Speech and language therapy focusing on social pragmatic skills
  • Video-modeling and role play
  • “Gentle teaching” throughout the school day of social pragmatic and Theory of Mind skills
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Development of an appropriate Individualized Educational Program (IEP)
  • Sensory integration therapy
  • Direct coaching regarding executive functioning skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • Teaching of stress reduction techniques
  • Teaching of self-awareness skills and emotional and physical regulation needed for learning
  • Preparation for transition to college
  • Counseling regarding employment related matters and accommodations 

Prior to the development of a customized plan of intervention, evaluation and assignment of appropriate diagnosis (if applicable) is essential. 

Within an evaluation core areas of an autism spectrum disorder will be evaluated which include Theory of Mind skills (being able to understand things from another person’s perspective), central coherence(being able to understand the “big picture”), and executive functioning skills (organization and planning abilities, time management and prioritizing, working memory, and understanding of complex or abstract concepts). 

In addition, cognitive functioning, academic skills, attentional ability, neuropsychological and emotional functioning will also be evaluated in order to consider appropriate strategies for intervention.