Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder currently affects about 1 in every 68 children in the United States. The signs and symptoms of autism of often visible in infancy and diagnosed around the age of two. Children who are diagnosed and receive treatment earlier have a greater chance of learning and succeeding despite the difficulties they may face in life. 

If you see any signs or symptoms of autism in your child, it would be important to mention them to your care provider or psychologist so they can be assessed. At Dr. Messina and Associates, we are qualified to diagnose and provide treatment to children with autism. 

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder, also referred to as ASD or autism, is a neurological and developmental disability. People with ASD usually have difficulties interacting and communicating with others. They may also have repetitive behaviors or learning restrictions. They may also have other difficulties functioning or paying attention to tasks in work, school, or social situations. 

Every person with ASD is affected on a different level. For example, some may be able to communicate well with others, but others may be nonverbal. The term “spectrum” means that there is a wide range of symptoms and severity that can be experienced by those affected.

Autism spectrum disorder is labeled as a developmental disorder because the symptoms appear before the age of three. Some children show signs before their first birthday, while others may not have any symptoms till later on.


Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of autism that are visible in varying degrees of severity. It is important to note that some of these symptoms may be visible in people without ASD. Only receiving a proper diagnosis can confirm if the symptoms are of ASD.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of ASD in children:

Social Interaction:

Behaviors and Interests:

Other Signs and Symptoms

Risk Factors

Research has still not found specific causes of ASD. But, evidence shows that some factors place a child at a greater risk for ASD.

These risk factors include:


Testing and Diagnosis

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can be visible at around 18 months of age; however, a diagnosis is most reliable after two years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for ASD at 18 months and 24 months of age. 

To diagnose Autism spectrum disorder, many tests and assessments must be completed. Tests, called screening tools, are first conducted to evaluate the signs and symptoms. Screening tools are used to test specific areas of development or autism specifically. If the screening tools show positive results, further assessments would be needed. Assessments provide more in-depth results, which are needed for diagnosis. There are specific criteria that must be met for an ASD diagnosis to be made. 

The criterion includes persistent deficits in all three areas of social communication. These deficits include:

Two of four forms of restrictive or repetitive behavior must also be evident for diagnosis. This criterion includes: 


Treatment and Therapy

There are many forms of treatment or therapy available to those with ASD, yet all forms intend to help improve their quality of life and daily functioning. Treatment plans are often customized to meet a child’s specific needs. 

In some cases, behavioral treatments may be used in order to improve cognition, specific skills, or behavior. Other forms of therapy include speech-language therapy, play-based therapy, sensory integration therapy, or physical therapy, depending on needs. 

Medications may also be prescribed to help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Family involvement is also necessary to support the treatment of a child with ASD. A care provider may help families develop a structured plan that can help ensure structure for the child to help them thrive at home. 


Getting Help

If you have any questions about autism spectrum disorder testing or treatment, don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Dr. Michael Messina

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