Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a broad spectrum of various challenges and conditions that often affect a person’s behavior, learning abilities, speech, social skills, and non-verbal communication. In the United States the Center for Disease Control has suggested that 1 in 44 children are identified as being on the autism spectrum, my nephew Layne is one of these children. ASD is a spectrum disorder meaning there is a range in which a person could be identified mild, moderate, or severe depending on abilities and depth of challenges. People with ASD often experience, difficulty with social interaction and communication, repetitive behaviors, and limited interests.
Social interaction and communication skills that may be challenging for persons with ASD include following conversations and contributing to those conversations in a relevant manner, lack of eye contact or inability to sustain eye contact, responding slowly or not at all to their name, talking at length about a subject or activity that they enjoy without allowing others to participate in the conversation. They may display difficulty adjusting to different social settings and environments, transitions in activities or classes in school may be difficult. They may demonstrate a lack of ability to participate in imaginative play with others. Sometimes facial expressions and/or gestures may not match what is being said. Establishing and maintaining friendships may be challenging. While Layne has overcome most of the above challenges when a topic interests him, he will talk about it for a while and often has, to be reminded to allow others to contribute to the conversation.
Repetitive behaviors and limited Interests may include the following: difficulty or more sensitive to sensory pieces such as sound, clothing, and light. They may lack flexibility with change and may become upset or angered with a change in routine. They may be highly attracted to moving parts or interchangeable parts such as Lego’s, building toys, cars, or vehicles. ASD persons may have an intense ability to retain facts and details. They may also be involved in repetitive behaviors or repeat the same words or phrases also known as echolalia. Layne’s ability to create with Lego’s is both technical and imaginative. In our family he is known as “Layne the Lego Master.” He creates amazing forts constructed from boxes and his drawings are detailed. When out at restaurants Layne will often use his headphones as a coping tool due to sensitivity to the various loud noises and multiple conversations.
ADS persons display a variety of strengths typically in the areas of math, science, art, and music. They possess the ability to learn things in an in-depth manner with emphasis on details and they retain the information for long periods of time. Layne has several topics of interest that he can provide detailed information including the Titanic, volcanos, sea animals, Egypt, and China. There is no one type of autism and while persons diagnosed with ASD may have commonalities there is no one person with ASD that is exactly like another. It is important that while attending school persons with ASD have an individual learning plan (IEP) and behavior intervention plan (BIP). When an ASD person is involved in counseling, their treatment plan should be developed based on their unique needs and their idea of personal growth.