Saturday, April 12, 2008

April is Autism Awareness Month

In 2007, the CDC estimated the prevalence of autism to be as high as 1 in 150 children; as many as 560,000 children may be affected. Given this recent increase in prevalence, psychologists need to be aware of the clinical issues in autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released materials to help pediatricians identify autism, and useful information for parents.

Psychologists play a critical role as one of the key professionals who are able to diagnose autism. Children with autism are often first identified by their language delay; children also demonstrate echolalia (repeating words and phrases). Autism is also characterized by deficits in socialization, such as difficulties in making direct eye contact, demonstrating joint attention (looking at an object that another person refers to), and sustaining reciprocal conversations. Finally, children with autism often demonstrate excesses in repetitive behavior or restricted interests; these include self-stimulatory behavior (e.g. rocking back and forth, flapping their hands), insistence on routines, lining up objects such as cars, unusual interests such as ceiling fans, vacuum cleaners, headlights, or excessive interests in typical things, such as only talking about trains or dinosaurs.

Best practices in treatment in autism is controversial, but most agree on early, intensive interventions, typically behavioral in nature, but also stemming from developmental approaches, that include reinforcement for learning new tasks, visual supports, efforts to improve language, socialization, adaptive behavior and decrease disruptive behaviors. For more information on autism, go to .

Information by: Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, Ph.D.

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