Written by Shirley Gil
Autism is a complex condition defined by specific behavior patterns and characteristics. It is considered to be a neurological disorder; however, no single cause has been identified. Eventually, the cause of autism will most likely be linked to combinations of genetic and environmental factors.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, including individuals with widely varying differences who often require individualized instruction. The most effective educational programs are those based on principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) begin before the age of three and last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show signs of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.
Diagnosing ASDs can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASDs can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age two, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.
There is no single best treatment for all children with ASDs. There are many different types of treatments available, such as: auditory training, discrete trial training, vitamin therapy, anti-yeast therapy, facilitated communication, music therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory integration.
There is no known single cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism versus in neurotypical children. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.
In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.
Autism Society states: Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances and exposure to environmental chemicals.
Stepss Academy in Sunrise, Florida was created as a result of the need in our community for a new school with an innovative approach to teaching. Stepss Academy provides students with an individualized education using the teaching techniques that are most successful for each type of learner—visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic–at the pace at which they are able to learn. Students are given a lot of verbal praise, repetition, and breaks as needed. The majority of our students have been diagnosed within the autism spectrum or with a related attention, sensory, developmental or communication disorder.
Some students have mild behavioral challenges, and most are of average or above average intelligence. Students are placed in small classes of no more than 6 students with an ESE certified teacher and a part-time teacher assistant. All teachers and teacher assistants have completed, or are in the process of completing, training as Applied Behavior Analyst assistants. Class placement is determined by the child’s academic and functionality level.