Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects behavior and communication. Although ASD can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms typically show in the first two years of life.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:
- Difficulty with interaction and communication with other people
- Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests
- Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in work, school, and other areas of life
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms individuals experience. ASD appears in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although autism can be a lifelong disorder, autism treatment for adults can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.
What is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adults?
ASD can range from mild to severe. The type of symptoms a person has and how severe they are varies. Some adults who have ASD may not be able to function without a lot of help from parents and other caregivers. Others may learn social and verbal skills and be able to care for themselves. Most people who have ASD will always have some trouble when they communicate or interact with others.
Autism treatment for adults has helped many individuals who have it to lead full lives. An Autism Treatment Center is designed to care for adults who are showing treatment-resistant and severe behavioral disorders such as aggression and self-harm, or who have undergone a decline in their usual level of psychiatric functioning.
Doctors and parents sometimes miss the symptoms of ASD in children who are “high functioning”—meaning they’re able to move through the world without assistance. You may hear this referred to as Asperger’s syndrome, a formal diagnosis that is now categorized under the broader umbrella of ASD.
It’s also common for autism in children to be misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) since ADHD can also cause difficulty with communication skills and repetitive behavior. While it’s possible to have both conditions, over the years, experts have become better at distinguishing the symptoms of ASD from those of ADHD.
Types of autism
Although the term Asperger’s syndrome was quite common before 2013, the term is actually no longer used by medical professionals. It has since been reclassified as level 1 autism spectrum disorder by the DSM-5 diagnostic manual.
Still, Asperger’s syndrome may be used informally — in fact; autism communities use it more often than level 1 spectrum disorder.
A child with level 1 spectrum disorder will have above average intelligence and strong verbal skills but will experience challenges with social communication.
In general, a child with level 1 autism spectrum disorder will display the following symptoms:
- Inflexibility in thought and behavior
- Challenges in switching between activities
- Executive functioning problems
- Flat monotone speech, the inability to express feelings in their speech or change their pitch to fit their immediate environment
- Difficulty interacting with peers at school or home
Rett syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that is noticed in infancy. The disorder mostly affects girls, although it can still be diagnosed in boys. Rett syndrome presents challenges that affect almost every aspect of a child’s life. The good thing is your child can still enjoy and live a fulfilling life with the proper care. You can have family time together and provide support to allow the child to do what they enjoy.
Common symptoms of Rett syndrome include:
- Loss of standard movement and coordination
- Challenges with communication and speech
- Breathing difficulties in some cases
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), also known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis, is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by delayed onset of developmental problems in language, motor skills, or social function. A child experiences normal development in these areas only to hit a snag after age three and up to age 10. The developmental loss can be very heartbreaking for parents who had no idea their child had autism challenges all along.
The cause of CDD is unknown though researchers link it to the neurobiology of the brain. Childhood disintegrative disorder is more common in boys. Out of every 10 cases of the disorder, nine will be boys, and only one will be a girl.
In CDD, the child will have normal development up to the time when the disorder starts, and regressions suddenly start to occur in more than two developmental aspects of their life. The child may lose any of the following skills and abilities:
- Acquired language or vocabularies
- Toileting skills if they had already been established
- Social skills and adaptive behaviors
- Some motor skills
Kanner’s syndrome was discovered by psychiatrist Leo Kanner of John Hopkins University in 1943 when he characterized it as infantile autism. Doctors also describe the condition as a classic autistic disorder. Children with Kanner’s syndrome will appear attractive, alert, and intelligent with underlying characteristics of the disorder such as:
- Obsession with handling objects
- Lack of emotional attachment with others
- Uncontrolled speech
- Communication and interaction challenges
- A high degree of memory and visuospatial skills with major difficulties learning in other areas
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a mild type of ASD that presents a range of symptoms. The most common symptoms are challenges in language and social development.
Your child may experience delays in language development, walking, and other motor skills. You can identify this type of autism by observing the child and noting what area the child displays a deficit in, such as interacting with others. PDD-NOS is sometimes referred to as “subthreshold autism,” as it is a term used to describe an individual that has some but not all symptoms of autism.
How to Help Someone with Autism?
Do you have a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, a classmate, or a gym buddy who is on the autism spectrum? If so, you may find that it can be challenging, at times, to communicate clearly with this individual. While no two people with autism have the same language and social skills, the following guidelines from experts in the field can help ensure your conversations go as smoothly as possible.
1. Address him or her as you would any other adult, not a child. Do not assume that this person has limited cognitive skills. An individual’s disability may be more language-based and not related to his or her ability to comprehend the content of the conversation. In other words, s/he may understand every word you say but may have difficulty responding verbally.
2. Avoid using words or phrases that are too familiar or personal. For example, words like “honey” or “sweetie,” or “cutie,” can come across as demeaning or disrespectful to anyone, but particularly to someone working to establish his or her independence. Save these terms of endearment for close friends and family members.
3. Say what you mean. When interacting with an adult with autism, be literal, clear, and concise. Avoid the use of slang, nuance, and sarcasm. These forms of communication may be confusing and not easily understood by a person on the autism spectrum.
4. Take time to listen. Being an active listener is an important skill when interacting with adults with ASD. Taking the time to listen lets them know that you care and support them. If you do not understand what the person is saying, ask more questions to clarify what he or she is trying to convey.
5. If you ask a question, wait for a response. If someone doesn’t respond immediately to your question, do not assume they haven’t heard or understood you. Just like typical adults, individuals with autism or other special needs sometimes need a little more time to absorb and process information before giving you their response.
6. Provide meaningful feedback. Some adults with ASD may unknowingly communicate inappropriately. Be prepared to provide specific feedback about what in the conversation was inappropriate. Providing feedback that is honest, non-judgmental, and clear can help someone with ASD learn to safely navigate complex social interactions.
7. Don’t speak as if the person is not in the room. In a group setting with family members, caregivers, teachers, or others, do not talk about this person as if he or she were not in the room. It is easy to be drawn into this trap – especially if others are talking about this person in his or her presence. By modeling appropriate behavior, you can help others learn how to be more supportive of adults with ASD.
It is important for those of us who are family members, friends, and advocates of individuals who have ASD to recognize and respect them as adults and to help them experience as much self-esteem and achieve as much independence as possible.
Inpatient treatment for adults with autism
Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display a wide range of intellectual and language abilities, experiences, strengths, and levels of functioning. Many individuals with autism can be treated in home and community settings. However, the need for pharmacological and intensive behavioral treatment in the clinic setting may be needed.
The Autism Inpatient Center is designed to care for adults who are showing treatment-resistant and severe behavioral disorders such as aggression and self-harm, or who have undergone a decline in their usual level of psychiatric functioning. As the highest level of care, inpatient treatment is most suitable for adults who have exhausted available care in the community and are in acute behavioral situations.
Types of therapies for autism
Applied behavior analysis
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is one of the most commonly used therapy options for adults with ASD. It refers to a series of procedures developed to encourage positive behaviors using a reward system.
There are several types of ABA, including:
- Discrete trial training. This process uses a series of trials to motivate step-by-step learning. Correct behaviors and answers are rewarded, and mistakes are ignored.
- Early intensive behavioral intervention. Adults work one-on-one with a therapist or in a small group. It’s usually done over the course of several years to help a person develop communication skills and reduce problematic behaviors, including self-harm or aggression.
- Pivotal response training. This is a strategy used in an everyday environment that teaches a person with ASD pivotal skills, such as the motivation to learn or initiate communication.
- Verbal behavior intervention. A therapist works with the client to help them understand why and how humans use language to communicate better and get things they need.
- Positive behavior support. This involves making environmental changes to the home or classroom in order make good behavior feel more rewarding.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that can be effective in helping adults with ASD. During CBT sessions, individuals learn about the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This may help to identify the feelings and thoughts that trigger negative behaviors.
Social skills training
Social skills training (SST) is a way for adults to develop social skills. For some individuals with autism, interacting with others is very tough. This can lead to many challenges over time. Someone undergoing SST learns basic social skills, including how to understand humor, carry on a conversation, and read emotional signals.
Sensory integration therapy
People with ASD are sometimes unusually affected by sensory input, such as sound, sight, or smell. Social integration therapy is founded on the theory that having some of your senses heightened makes it hard to learn and display positive behaviors. SIT tries to even out an individual’s response to sensory stimulation and it’s usually done by an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy (OT) is a field of healthcare that focuses on teaching individuals the fundamental skills they need in everyday life. For adults, OT focuses on developing independent living skills, such as cleaning, cooking, and handling money.
Speech therapy teaches verbal skills that can help individuals with ASD communicate better. It’s usually done with either an occupational therapist or a speech-language pathologist. It can help individuals improve the rate and rhythm of their speech, in addition to using words correctly. It can also help adults improve how they communicate thoughts and feelings.
Autism Medication Therapy Management
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) , Currently, there is no medication that can cure autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or all of its symptoms. But some medications can help treat certain symptoms associated with ASD, especially certain behaviors.
Healthcare providers often use medications to deal with a specific behavior, such as to reduce self-injury or aggression. Minimizing a symptom allows the person with autism to focus on other things, including learning and communication. Research shows that medication is most effective when used in combination with behavioral therapies.
The FDA has approved the use of some antipsychotic drugs, such as risperidone and aripiprazole, for treating irritability associated with ASD. Other drugs are often used to help improve symptoms of autism, but they are not approved by the FDA for this specific purpose.
Other drugs are often used to help improve symptoms of autism, but they are not approved by the FDA for this specific purpose.
All medications carry risks, some of them serious. Families should work closely with their children’s healthcare providers to ensure the safe use of any medication.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
This group of antidepressants treats some problems that result from imbalances in the body’s chemical systems.
These medications are another type of antidepressant used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).
These drugs seem to cause more minor side effects than do SSRIs. They are sometimes more effective than SSRIs for treating certain people and certain symptoms.
Psychoactive or anti-psychotic medications
These types of medications affect the brain of the person taking them. The antipsychotic drug risperidone is approved for reducing irritability in 5-to-16-year-olds with autism.
These medications can decrease hyperactivity, reduce stereotyped behaviors, and minimize withdrawal and aggression among people with autism.
This group of medications can help to increase focus and decrease hyperactivity in people with autism. They are particularly helpful for those with mild ASD symptoms.
This group of medications can help relieve anxiety and panic disorders, which are often associated with ASD.
These medications treat seizures and seizure disorders, such as epilepsy. (Seizures are attacks of jerking or staring and seeming frozen. Almost one-third of people with autism symptoms have seizures or seizure disorders.
Recreational therapy activities for autism
In general, individuals with ASD enjoy the same type of activities that neurotypical (nonautistic) individuals like. Like everyone else, individuals with ASD enjoy a range of educational and recreational activities depending on their tastes. However, social impairments or certain sensory processing issues may limit some activities concerning a negative social encounter or sensory trigger. A person’s interests, tastes, and level of impairment all play a part in deciding what type of activities he prefers.
Recreational therapy activities can improve autism symptoms by providing chances for improving communication skills, language, social interaction, and providing sensory stimulation. Many autism treatments for adults involve recreational therapeutic activities or are compatible with extracurricular activities that provide benefits.
Advanced autism center for treatment
An individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficulties interacting socially with others, communicating effectively, and managing emotional and behavioral responses.
These challenges can make it difficult for therapists to administer treatments that are effective in helping individuals with ASD, including behavioral therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), play therapy, sensory therapy, occupational therapy, and others. To enhance the efficacy and maximize the benefits of these approaches, the person must be receptive to treatment for the duration of the session in an inpatient autism treatment center.
Most inpatient autism treatment centers offer programs rooted in Polyvagal Theory that help people with ASD self-regulate and feel calmer, opening them up to improved communication, social interaction, and even learning and performance of new activities. As a result, the individual becomes more receptive to the effective therapies mentioned previously in this regulated state.
If you or your loved one has ASD or think you have an undiagnosed ASD, you need to reach out for professional help. A visit or call to the nearest inpatient autism treatment center can become necessary. To learn more, contact us today at the We Level Up FL Treatment Facility; we provide utmost care with doctors and medical staff available 24/7 for life-changing and lasting recovery. We can help provide an enhanced opportunity to return to a fulfilling and productive life.