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AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH SERIES (PART 2 OF 3): Treatments vary for those diagnosed with ASD

Times-Tribune - 4/16/2018

April 16--This is the second story in a three-part series on Autism Spectrum Disorder. April is Autism Awareness Month, so the second part of this series will explore the treatments that are available for those with autism.

CORBIN -- Treatments will often vary for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is a developmental disorder that is characterized by a range of symptoms, such as deficits in social communication, forming relationships and language.

One of the earliest signs of autism a parent can see is a language delay. Some of the other signs include difficulty with eye contact, repetitive behaviors, behavioral issues and limited social interaction with others.

Brittany Hale, coordinator and outpatient therapist with Cumberland River Behavioral Health'sAutism Spectrum Disorder Clinic, said that once a parent begins to notice those symptoms in their child, to have them assessed by the professionals at the ASD Clinic.

Hale said that children who are assessed by the professionals at the ASD Clinic will be evaluated by three different professionals on the same day.

"They will receive a speech and language assessment, evaluation by a mental health professional utilizing the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Second Edition ADOS and a psychiatric evaluation by one of our child/adolescent psychiatrists," she said.

The ADOS test is a semi-structured assessment of communication, social interaction an delay for those suspected of ASD.

Because there is no definitive cause of autism and its wide range of symptoms, treatment comes in various forms. Hale said that once a child has been diagnosed with ASD, their treatment will depend upon the severity of ASD and will aim to treat the child's specific needs.

"The amount and intensity of the therapy depends on the child's severity and the type of therapy," she said.

Hale said the ASD Clinic offers outpatient behavioral therapy, which utilizes evidence-based techniques to modify the child's challenging behaviors. The clinic also offers medication management by a child/adolescent psychiatrist.

The clinic offers education and support to families of children with ASD, as well.

There are many other therapies children with ASD find helpful but the treatments and therapy used for one child will not always be used for another child because of the spectrum of symptoms.

"Children with ASD sometimes require other therapies, such as, speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy," she said.

Speech therapy can help with the communication delays that children with ASD often have while the occupational therapy helps with the over-stimulation those with autism often deal with. Both therapies can also help to teach a child with ASD how to better interact with others.

Physical therapy helps those with ASD who have difficulty with functional movement, poor balance and challenges successfully moving through their environment.

Hale said the ASD Clinic does not currently offer those additional therapies but can refer children with ASD to places that do offer them.

There are no medications that cure autism but Hale said a number of medications are often prescribed to those with ASD to treat other conditions and symptoms found in those with autism.

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