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Spectrum Disorder (Autism) Treatment in Dallas, TX

Facts About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Affecting children and persisting into the adult years, spectrum disorders can significantly impair a child’s ability to engage in society and perform everyday functions. Known to exist in varying levels of severity, spectrum disorders are named such because of the way they can manifest differently from child to child. The most common spectrum disorder today is autism or ASD, which occurs at a rate of 1 in every 160 children globally. And although some individuals might experience the symptoms of ASD more profoundly, modern-day research has made it possible for medical experts to provide patients with an effective therapy that can help them cope more efficiently with independent living.

Statistics About Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Boys are four times more likely to get diagnosed with ASD
  • Most children are diagnosed by the age of four, but spectrum disorders can be diagnosed as early as the age of two
  • 31% of children diagnosed with ASD have intellectual disability
  • If the first child has ASD, there’s a 2% to 18% chance that the second child will have the same condition
  • At least one in every 250 people has Asperger’s syndrome
  • The prevalence of ASD in the United States rose by 119.4% between 2000 and 2010
  • The cost of lifelong care for spectrum disorders can be reduced by up to 66% with early diagnosis and intervention

Risk Factors of Spectrum Disorders

Spectrum disorders are relatively common, affecting 1% of the global population. And because they can cause significant impairment, especially as a child ages, it’s imperative to diagnose the condition as early as possible to provide intervention and help the child develop skills that can reduce the severity of the disease.

Unfortunately, not all parents know the signs of spectrum disorders, nor do they fully understand the risk factors involved. But by familiarizing themselves with the different factors that increase the risk of a diagnosis, individuals might be able to determine the likelihood of a family member or a child having the condition.

  • Family history: Strong evidence suggests that spectrum disorders are genetic. In families where parents or children have autism, an unborn baby’s risk of having the condition rises to 9 times. If the first child has autism, the next has an 18% chance of having it. If the first baby has it, the second has a 95% chance for identical twins. For fraternal, the risk is 31%.
  • Gender: Boys are four times more likely to receive a spectrum disorder diagnosis than girls. And while the reasons for this are unknown, couples with a family history of spectrum disorders are cautioned of the increased risk when conceiving a male child.
  • Parental ages: Research has established a link between the age of a child’s parents and the risk of developing a spectrum disorder. It seems that the older the parents are at the time of conception, the higher the risk; however, the exact reason remains unknown.
  • Preterm birth: Babies born before 26 weeks have a much higher chance of developing autism or other spectrum disorders. The same goes for preterm babies who experience more complications during birth, which is associated with the child’s altered cognitive development.
  • Presence of other disorders: Babies born with pre-existing medical conditions like chromosomal aberrations are at a higher risk of receiving a spectrum disorder diagnosis later in life.

Some studies suggest that environmental factors may also play a role in developing spectrum disorders. Pollution, viral infection, and even exposure to certain chemicals have contributed. However, further studies are required. What’s sure, however, is that vaccinations do not contribute to any of these disorders.

What are the Symptoms of Spectrum Disorders?

There are three main types of spectrum disorders, namely autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified or PDD-NOS. As of 2013, however, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has categorized Asperger’s as a subtype of autism.

All of these conditions resemble one another, with the distinction of severity. Autism tends to be the most severe, while Asperger’s is labeled ‘high functioning autism.’ On the surface, all of these spectrum disorders are likely to manifest the following symptoms:

  • Unresponsive to being called by name
  • Repetitive, non-goal-directed behavior like hand flapping
  • Delayed or no language development
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Deficit in language comprehension
  • Non-verbal communication such as grunts or pointing
  • Reliance on routines and patterns
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Self-stimulatory or self-injurious behavior
  • Sensitivity to different textures, tastes, sounds, and stimulation
  • Inappropriate or abnormal interaction
  • Lack of empathy
  • Difficulty learning
  • Repeating words
  • Strange, unnatural postures
  • Not engaging in play with children of the same age

A child with autism might seem like they are living in their world, unable to perceive others around them. They also rely heavily on routines, becoming upset when their schedules or environments change. Remember that these symptoms can occur in varying degrees of severity. So, while a child with a severe autism spectrum disorder might be difficult or even impossible to communicate with, others with high functioning disorders may be able to socialize and function with mild to moderate impairment.

It’s also important to note that while children may seem severe early on, prompt and efficient therapy can help them cope and become independent as they age. Early intervention is the cornerstone of effective spectrum disorder treatment, giving children a 66% chance of becoming independent adults.

How Does Autism Affect the Brain?

Several theories try to explain what happens in the brain of a child with autism. One such theory suggests structural changes in areas of the brain that control functions like language, socialization, and emotion, among other things. Then some hypothesize that the condition might result from too many connections between neurons than what’s considered normal.

Another theory speculates that the brain’s function is more erratic and less predictable in children with spectrum disorders, making it challenging to regulate the many different positions. Whatever the case, all of these studies may have some substance. But we have yet to entirely understand the exact cause or reasons behind the condition.

Treatment for Spectrum Disorders in Dallas, TX

Presently, there is no cure for spectrum disorders, and interventions are mainly focused on minimizing the effects of the condition so that the patient can achieve the highest level of functioning and independence possible, given the severity of their situation. So, experts combine medications and behavioral therapies to assist patients towards improved functioning.

Today, there are only two medications approved by the FDA for children with autism, and those are aripiprazole and risperidone. Prescribed for children ages 6 to 15, these drugs help manage irritability, which is particularly important for children with self-injurious behavior. The medication also reduces the child’s risk of injury to family members and therapists, which is common among more aggressive patients.

Other than that, experts recommend intensive therapy from the time of diagnosis until it’s deemed beneficial. Treatments can focus on various aspects of daily life, from motor skills to life skills and even job acquisition assistance. Treatment plans change from patient to patient since the condition’s manifestations vary. However, it is common for patients to require some if not all of the following treatments:

  • Speech and language therapy: The goal of this therapy is to assist patients in expanding their vocabulary, expressing themselves, and understanding others around them. Social cues are also part of the treatment, wherein they’re provided lessons on understanding non-verbal gestures and expressions. This can be particularly helpful because of the delay in language and speech development that most patients experience and the abnormal socialization patterns they manifest.
  • Physical therapy: Awkward postures, limited range of motion, impaired motor functioning, and planning are also some. symptoms of spectrum disorders. Patients can learn how to master their bodies and prevent injuries and accidents through physical therapy. For children with Asperger’s, physical therapy can also help reduce clumsiness associated with the condition.
  • Occupational therapy: Many spectrum disorders symptoms can make it tough to navigate the world and engage in daily activities. But occupational therapy works with goal-directed methods to help children excel in their hobbies, interests, and responsibilities. This specific branch of treatment places the patient in real-life situations – like cooking in a kitchen, taking a bath, or sitting in a classroom – to help them develop the proper skills for specific tasks.

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