We are going to dive deep into the world of autism and explore the terminology and the cast of characters who will become a part of your new vocabulary.
Over the next few days, weeks, and months, you are going to be bombarded with new terminology, new people, and new routines in your life. Below is a list of terminology that will become a part of your vocabulary. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should be a good resource for you to get started.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. An ASD diagnosis includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s syndrome.[i]
Autistic Disorder PDD-NOS refers to the diagnosis given for children who present with some of the characteristics of either autistic disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome, but not severe enough for a diagnosis of either of these conditions.
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS): A developmental disorder on the autism spectrum defined by impairments in communication and social development and by repetitive interests and behaviors. Unlike typical autism, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have no significant delay in language and cognitive development.
Wraparound Services refers to therapy services provided to a child at home, at school or daycare, or in the community. These services can be one on one, or embedded into environments with other individuals to assist with day to day functioning with family, friends in school or other settings in the child’s community. The goal is to provide the services in the child’s regular environment instead of a more restrictive environment-for instance it keeps your child in a standard classroom instead of a special education classroom.
Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS) is the therapist who will work directly with your child. Usually he or she works with your child to learn or modify behaviors either one on one, or in a family, school, or community setting. The TSS provides services that have been ordered through your child’s treatment plan.
Mobile Therapist (MT) is the person who also provides individual therapy to your child, addressing emotions and other problems the child is having. This individual provides this service at home or in the community instead of a traditional office setting.
Behavioral Services Consultant (BSC) is the individual who writes your child’s treatment plan and works with the TSS and MT to implement and revise the plan as needed. In essence, this person supervises the work of the TSS and MT.
Treatment Plan refers to the individual recommendation by a psychologist or psychiatrist who has evaluated your child. The recommendation must specify what type of service your child needs, where the services will occur, the number of hours in each setting, and why it is medically necessary. There is usually a quarterly meeting with the BSC and the psychologist or psychiatrist to review the plan, review progress, and recalibrate the treatment plan as needed. Your child’s needs and strengths will determine the treatment plan, but most of the time the goals include communication, socialization, behavior modification, and independence.
Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy (ABA) refers to the most common form of therapy for ASD. This therapy, in summary, is the application of certain behavioral principles to either increase or decrease certain behaviors. ABA is not a one size fits all approach; therapy approaches will be different based on the child. ABA can be used to help improve language, independence, and play; it can be used to reduce aggression, self-injury, and self-stimulating. Approaches may include reinforcement through rewards(or withholding rewards), peer training through play with other children, or utilizing a system of prompts to facilitate transitioning activities. Sometimes ABA makes a parent feel like their child is being studied and treated like a lab rat because the therapist documents every move and progress or regress is measured by a compilation of statistics observed by the TSS.
Stimming refers to self-stimulating behaviors; usually repetitive body movements or actions. Stimming can range from a child moving their fingers or objects in front of their eyes to sniffing objects, to rocking back and forth…..constantly. It is believed that stimming is the child’s way of calming him or herself in response to environmental stimulants, including stress. Stimming, while typically harmless, is a behavior that therapy seeks to reduce because the repetition interferes with the child’s ability to focus and learn. Almost all children with ASD engage in stimming of some sort. It actually may have been the behavior that caught your attention initially.
Echolalia refers to the repetition of words, phrases, or noises that a child hears from others.
Receptive Language refers to a child’s ability to understand and interpret not only words, but also gestures and actions. Receptive language develops over time and is measured at different ages. A child should be able to understand certain things at certain ages. For instance, around ages 2 and 3, a child should be able to follow 2-step commands (stop/go).
Expressive Language refers to a child’s ability to express what they want and need. This does not refer to a child’s ability simply to speak. It’s the process of formulating thoughts and then expressing those thoughts in appropriate words or word combinations.
Until next time…..