Autism: Effective Treatment Options

By: The Autism Science Foundation

Scientists agree that the earlier in life a child receives early intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention, and some may gain enough skills to be able to attend mainstream school. Research tells us that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years prior to the start of school can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

sensory

Early diagnosis of ASD, coupled with swift and effective intervention, is paramount to achieving the best possible prognosis for the child. Even at ages as young as six months, diagnosis of ASD is possible. Regular screenings by pediatric psychiatrists are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if your child is not diagnosed with an ASD before the age of 3, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your child may be eligible for services provided by your state. In addition, many insurance companies will provide additional assistance for the coverage of proven therapies. More information on autism and insurance can be found here.

The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. Treatment works to minimize the impact of the core features and associated deficits of ASD and to maximize functional independence and quality of life. In 2012, the Missouri Guidelines Initiative summarized the findings from 6 reviews on behavioral and pharmacological interventions in autism. The consensus paper includes current evidence of what interventions have been studied and shown effective, why or why not, and can be found here.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) works to systematically change behavior based on principles of learning derived from behavioral psychology. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors. In addition, ABA teaches new skills and applies those skills to new situations

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is a type of ABA for very young children with an ASD, usually younger than five, often younger than three.

Understanding Comorbidities

Top of the Spectrum News

As many as 85% of children with autism also have some form of comorbid psychiatric diagnosis. ADHD, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed comorbidities, with anxiety and depression being particularly important to watch for in older children, as they become more self-aware. Understanding and treating psychiatric comorbidities are often far more challenging than the Aspergers/Autism itself as discussed in this edition of Top of the Spectrum News.

The diagnosis of comorbidities can be challenging because many people with ASD have difficulty recognizing and communicating their symptoms. It takes time to uncover the cause of a meltdown or aggravation but to aid you in your search, we listed the most common comorbidities below:

  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Sleep disorders/disturbance
  • ADHD
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Feeding/eating challenges
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Top of the Spectrum News is a product of Aspergers101.

The Less Traveled Path to Christ: Families, Autism and the Church Today

Autism, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and developmental delays often keep kids (and parents) away from church. A new study has found children with autism are almost twice as likely to never attend church or other religious services. Families of children with other disabilities are missing from the pews as well. These are the parents who grew up in the church. Whose fathers were preachers, elders, deacons and whose mothers were Sunday School Teachers and Ladies Bible Class members.  These parents of children with disabilities are aching for their child to know the same love of a church family as they did.

I can vouch for this describes my family. Our oldest son has Autism. For families like mine, it doesn’t take a study to know that there are often barriers that prevent children with disabilities (and their families) from participating in worship. So what are the barriers and how can we, as parents and church leaders, accommodate by emulating Christs ministry to all?

Church is a large social gathering that in itself, difficult for anyone with autism. The service can be a radically unwelcoming, even dangerous, place for persons with ASD in ways nobody ever intends. Sensory, Anxiety, etc. It is another potentially overwhelming situation (like school, grocery shopping, etc.) that is asked of autistic kids on a regular basis. Unlike most people, they don’t leave church feeling refreshed and renewed to face the week ahead. 

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  – John 9:1-3

As a parent of a child with a disability, know that you have been prepared for the road less traveled. God will not give you more than you can bear and He (the Almighty) prepared you, as he did your child, for this journey.

Below is a statement my son Samuel said when he was very young and we have it printed and hanging by our front door:

Don’t worry about the impairments that God included in this package…think about the good stuff in the package God gave you.

Samuel Allen

I would agree with Sam. As medical science begins to unravel and understand the brain and the effects of autism, we as a society and especially as the Church, should subside our fear of ‘different’ and embrace God’s beautiful design in worship together. On the other hand, parents should take note of a saying I’ve often heard Dr. Temple Grandin state: “Autism is not an excuse for bad manners.” Parents need to be cognisant not only of their child and their needs, but the ability for others to hear the sermon thus keeping the focus on God.

On Tuesday, September 17th, 2019, I was honored to have presented a lecture at my alma mater, Abilene Christian University. It was ACU Summit 2019 and my topic given: Autism and the Church today. With the overall Summit theme of “Sorrow, Hope & Joy” (a tribute to the Psalms) my heart knew (all too well) all three emotions and suspect yours does too. I offer to our Aspergers101 readers the entire presentation and downloadable tri-fold brochure if this message resonates with you or someone you love.

May you know you are never alone and as with all things…the answer resides in living like Christ. In the following presentation, we explore his teachings and apply them toward raising a family with a disability in the church today.  

Below is a downloadable tri-fold brochure you may want to share with your church or autism/parent organization.

Inclusion and compassion was everything Christ personified on earth. I think there is a strong correlation for both the church and the family seeking Gods unconditional love.

I hope the materials above offers insight and some steps toward inclusion and above all…a comfort to know you are not taking your less traveled path alone.

by: Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Individuals with Aspergers

Anxiety-related symptoms are frequent concerns in children, adolescents and adults with Aspergers and HFA, which may be treatable with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

the pain

Anxiety is commonly found in high functioning individuals on the spectrum in particular because they have an increased awareness of their own social difficulties. This cognitive awareness may intensify their anxiety toward social interaction and promote isolation.

Recent numbers found that 11-84% of children on the autism spectrum experience impairing anxiety, while only 4.7% of all children aged 3-17 years have experienced anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps individuals recognize how thoughts and feelings influence behavior and cope with these challenges.

CBT is used to treat a wide range of issues, in addition to anxiety, including:

Aspergers, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD), and Families: A List of Resources for You

Parents of any child with differences struggle with feeling isolated. One of the challenges for families with Aspergers Syndrome (AS) and nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD or NVLD) children is that these children don’t look different. They’re bright and verbal; their quirkiness, sensitivities and apparent oppositionalism aren’t easy to understand.

Kid having a tantrum

As a result, parents often feel blamed for their children’s special challenges. I know one mother who was told bluntly by her brother, “You must be doing something wrong. Give me two weeks with that kid in my house and I’d straighten him out.”

Parents are well aware that rigidity meeting rigidity doesn’t work and only leads to meltdowns.

Aspergers and NLD children require unique parenting skills based on understanding, acceptance, and appropriate interventions. Blaming and punishment don’t make family life any better and don’t encourage positive growth in children.

Ultimate Guide: Understanding High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

 The following is an excerpt taken from the documentary: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-age Children Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers SyndromeMedical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain.

Neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function. It has become clear that individuals who are diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic or Aspergers receive their gifts and struggles from a physical medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe. Once we understand exactly how the challenges occur, we can begin to lead our loved ones with Aspergers on the path from coping to excelling.

We interviewed experts in the field of Autism to offer you a quick read on understanding High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.

Upcoming Event: Jennifer Allen to Speak at ACU Summit 2019

“The Less Traveled Path to Christ: Families, Autism and the Church Today”

Autism, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and developmental delays often keep kids (and parents) away from church. The Great Commission instructs us to go and preach the gospel to all nations, to all people … and as for those with disabilities, we must put aside our fear of “different” by first understanding the uniquely wired brain and then providing accommodation(s). Jennifer Allen will share her family’s personal journey of having a child diagnosed with autism and how the less traveled path to Jesus, though oftentimes rocky, offers beautiful vistas that neurotypicals seldom witness. This session is for the church to better understand the challenges that face these families along with suggested accommodations and especially for the parent torn about church and their children.

THE FACTS:

When: Tuesday, September 17th

Time: 9:30a – 10:15a

Where: ACU Summit on the Campus of Abilene Christian University 

               ACU Biblical Studies Building 1201850 Teague Boulevard

               Abilene, TX 79601 – Room 120

Cost: Free

Go to ACU Website for full information on ACU Summit 2019  or view the full ACU Summit 2019 Program here. Note: Jennifer Allen’s presentation: The Less Traveled Path to Christ: Families, Autism and the Church Today is listed on page 23.

Is a Diagnostic Label of Asperger’s a Stigma in College?

Students making the transition from high school to college often question the need to make public – either verbally or by providing a formal evaluation to disability service professionals in higher education – their diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder.

Student sitting reading a book and taking notes in lecture hall

The concern is one to consider; common sense suggests to us that public disclosure of an autism spectrum disorder may cause stigmatization.

But does it really?

It may be, certainly. Responses to the disclosure of an autism spectrum disorder likely vary from peer to peer, and institution to institution.

There is evidence, however, that diagnostic labels may create less stigma for adults with Asperger’s Disorder than do the social behaviors commonly associated with the syndrome.

Butler and Gillis (2011) report the findings of their research on this topic in a paper titled “The Impact of Labels and Behaviors on the Stigmatization of Adults with Asperger’s Disorder.”

The researchers surveyed 195 undergraduate psychology students at Auburn University by presenting them with vignettes that portray a wide spectrum of social behavior. Vignettes were paired either with the label “Asperger’s Disorder,” or with no label at all. Participants then completed a modified Social Distance Scale. This was a self-report questionnaire to express the level of stigma they attached to the individual described in each vignette.

Findings “support the hypothesis that it is the atypical behaviors associated with AD that influence stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with AD, not the label of the disorder”.

In this study the label “Asperger’s Disorder” did not affect stigmatization to a significant level.

This research is clearly limited, and the researchers suggest several potential reasons for the outcome. The study suggests, however, that in order to address potential stigmatization it may be best to spend time and effort teaching appropriate social and independent living skills, rather than prioritizing disclosure as the highest concern.

This won’t be true for all. But it is a point to consider.

by Dr. Marc Ellison

Butler, R. C., & Gillis, J. M. (2011). The Impact of Labels and Behaviors on the Stigmatization of Adults with Asperger’s Disorder. Journal Of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 41(6), 741-749. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-1093-9

Everyone Loves a Parade!

The abilitySTRONG Parade officially kicks off San Antonio’s Disability Pride Celebration with Aspergers101 Samuel Allen as the Grand Marshal!

Get ready to celebrate, participate and cheer on the parade that kicks off San Antonio’s Disability Pride Celebration! It’s the 2nd annual abilitySTRONG Parade and it caravans through the beautiful, historic streets of San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, October 26th, 2019 from 9:00 am  – 10:00 am. This years theme is: Awareness…we’re stronger together along with the motto I Have A Voice.

Of course we are very proud to announce that our own Samuel Allen will be the Grand Marshal of this years parade! Last year, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg served as the Grand Marshal and handing such an honor off to someone so young as Samuel just thrills us! According to disABILITYsa Executive Director Melanie Cawthon , “The announcement of the Samuel Allen Law was a perfect reflection of how giving voice to the needs of those with disabilities can effect significant and beneficial changes in our society. ”


The 2019 abilitySTRONG Parade is San Antonio’s first annual Disability Pride Celebration.   This parade is a public expression of the belief that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with disabilities can take pride.

disABILITYsa

Theme: Awareness..We’re Stronger Together Motto: I Have a Voice

2019 Grand Marshal – Samuel Allen

Samuel Allen, who is employed at H-E-B as an IT Specialist, was asked to offer this thoughts on this years theme of “Awareness…We’re Stronger Together as well as the motto “I have a Voice”.

“Both of these statements resonate strongly with me because early on of learning of my Autism diagnosis, I learned that my voice mattered (above the medical noise of what I will never be able to accomplish) as that voice would mold me into all I could be or stifle me into less than. Stronger together first impacted me by the support of my family. My Dad wasn’t disappointed in me but learned of his son’s wiring and became interested in the things I was interested in instead of what he hoped I would be. My Mom changed her profession to better understand Autism and more importantly, better understand my wiring. This took most of my lifetime to find out what were my worst challenges and once we found that out, how to overcome or at the very least, live with and treat what is treatable.

The other element my Mom gave was focusing on my strengths that may have been overlooked by most neurotypicals. She built a non-profit called, Aspergers101.org and used that outlet to help others similar to our path. My brother Charlie, though 2 years younger, has always looked after my well-being. He stood up for me during the difficult/bullying middle school-age years and never wavered in trying to help me adapt to my neurotypical surroundings. He remains a good friend as well as my brother. (though we have our moments)

My accomplishments have been what most people deem as routine. High School graduate, Summer jobs, College graduate (Dec/2018 Texas A & M San Antonio) and now full time employment in my area of study, H-E-B/ IS Tech II Specialist. Also I have my driver license and have been driving myself to work & school though it took me a while longer than most to feel confident to drive highways, etc…  

I feel blessed to have been alongside Aspergers101  as a trainer and spokesperson. Alongside my Mom, we have offered workshops, spoke at conferences, live streamed from various locations such as SA Public Library and supported people one-on-one for many years. People want hope. They want to know that it is alright to have Autism. You can have a life and even embrace the differences as Dr. TEmple Grandin has said so many times. Groups seems to be thirsty for knowledge of Autism as well. We have spoken to Doctors, Educators, Employers, Churches and now Law Enforcement on better understanding those with a communication challenges such as autism.  

I am honored to have been asked to be the Grand Marshal at the abilitySTRONG Parade this year. ” – Samuel Allen


The abilitySTRONG Parade is an official Tricentennial Event approved and promoted by #SA300!

“T-shirts with this year’s motto “I Have A Voice” will be available for sale $15 each at the event and $10 each pre-event purchase.  The Planning Team for this event is always in need of extra hands, hearts, and helpers. ”

Melanie Cawthon, MS, CNP
Co-Founder/Executive Director disABILITYsa…educate, advance, and engage

Below lists the Frequently Asked Question regarding the Parade and the details for participation. If you find your question(s) were not found, look at the end of this blog for direct contact information with the Parade.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the Parade?
Saturday, October 26th, 2019 from 9:00 am  – 10:00 am

Where is the Parade Route?
Route will start at Avenue and East Houston in front of First Presbyterian Church and Express News Bldg.  South on Avenue E, West on Houston St.North on Flores St., West on Travis St., South on San Saba, East on Commerce St., and South on Pecos St. to UTSA . Total Distance: ​1.30 miles

What are the ways to get involved?
You can join the planning team, take part by being in the parade, become a sponsor, volunteer or enjoy as a spectator!

Is the abilitySTRONG Parade associated with the #SA300 Tricentennial Celebration?
Yes!  We’re so glad you asked.  The abilitySTRONG Parade is an official Tricentennial Event approved and promoted by #SA300.  Click here to see the official listing on the #SA300 Calendar of Events!

What is the deadline to register, participate, sponsor, and/or underwrite?
The deadline for sponsorship and parade applications is Friday, August 31st at 11:30 pm.
The deadline for underwriter support is Friday, September 14th at 11:30 pm.
The deadline to register and participate in the ability MARCH is Friday, September 28th at 5:00 pm.  

What is the date and time of the 2018 abilitySTRONG Parade and abilityMARCH?
The abilitySTRONG Parade and abilityMARCH will be held on Saturday, October 20th, 2018 beginning at 9:00am.  Staging will begin a 7:30am in the Cattleman Square Parking Lot of UTSA.  The parade course will leave out from the Cattleman Square Parking Lot, at the corner of Buena Vista and N. Leona St., turn South on La Trinidad St., West on W. Nueva St., North on S. Flores St., East on W. Houston St., South on N. Leona St., and then and back into Cattleman’s Square Parking Lot.  All individuals on foot will disband from the parade at the corner of Houston and San Saba Street.  The Judges Stand and VIP Seating will be located on Houston St. at Milam Park, between Santa Rosa and San Saba.

Do I have to be a person living with a disability to participate in the abilityMarch or abilitySTRONG Parade?
Absolutely not.  The abilityMARCH and abilitySTRONG Parade are opportunities for us to celebrate and strengthen the San Antonio community which includes individuals with disabilities, our families, and allies.  Everyone who believes that disability is a natural part of human diversity and supports the disability community is invited to be a part of the parade and march.

Is there any kind of event following the parade?
The 12th Annual AccessAbility fest will take place in Market Square from 10:00am – 2:00pm and features over 140 exhibitors with information, products, programs and services that promote independence and inclusion where individuals with disabilities live, work and play.  This FREE celebration also features live entertainment, activities, demonstrations, and food purchase options. 

What are the costs to participate in the abilityMARCH?
There is no cost to participate in the abilityMARCH following the abilitySTRONG Parade.  However, if people are able, we do suggest a registration donation of $10 for individuals.  Individuals making a donation of at least $10 will receive a complimentary event t-shirt.

What are the costs to participate in the parade?
Entry fees include an application fee (nonprofit, business, and commercial options), Equestrian and Balloon Fee (as applicable), Float Inspection Fee (as applicable), and Insurance Premium (or COI).  In addition, parade entries must be decorated to the theme of the parade.

Can we have walkers participate with our Equestrian, Float, or Vehicle Entry?
Groups with vehicles, carriages, and floats that want walkers with them must select an additional entry (and premium) for a Marching Unit.

Can we have a banner with our entry?
Banners may be carried in front of each entry by no more than 2 banner carriers and are limited in size to be no larger than 3′ H x 5′ W.

What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?
Visit us online at https://www.abilitystrongparade.org/event-parking.html

What’s the refund policy?
All application fees do not apply for reimbursement. Additional fees and insurance premiums are eligible for reimbursement if your entry is declined or withdraws from the parade prior to September 7th, 2018.

Get online and register to participate with a parade entry or join the abilityMARCH that follows the parade.  abilitystrongparade.org

For further information please contact:

abilitySTRONG Parade
abilitystrongparade@disabilitysa.org
(210) 704-7262