Facts About Autism Spectrum Disorder
Three areas are affected in autism: social development, communication, and thinking/behaviour. The specific signs vary widely from one child (or adult) to another. The terms “autistic spectrum disorder” (ASD) and “pervasive developmental disorder” (PDD) both describe this range. Autism and related disorders such as Asperger syndrome are included in ASD/PDD.
• At least 1 in 150 children have an ASD.
• ASD is about 4 times more common in males.
• Symptoms of ASD are usually seen in the first three years of life.
• ASD is a life-long disorder of brain development. Cause(s) of ASD are not yet understood; genetic factors are important in some cases.
• Early intervention can make a great difference.
Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder
A diagnosis of ASD depends on the number and pattern of signs, which may include:
1. Social development
• Less awareness of other people and their feelings
• Unusual use of eye contact
• Preference for doing things alone
• Difficulty playing/working in groups
• Difficulty making friends
• Delayed or disordered use of speech and gesture
• Poor understanding of language, gesture, and facial expressions
• Unusual speech “melody”
• Repetitive speech; may include echoing what other people say
• Difficulty with taking turns in conversation
• Need to follow strict routines/difficulty with change in routines
• Repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand flicking, asking the same questions)
• Unusual reactions to the sound, sight, touch, smell or feel of things
4. Learning deficits
• Difficulty relating skills learned in one environment to another (generalization)
• Uneven learning profile
• Difficulty with abstract concepts
5. Associated features
• Toilet training, sleeping, and/or eating problems
• Sudden mood changes; anxiety
• Specific fears
• Lack of awareness of danger
• Self-injurious behaviour
IWK Autism Team
Provides diagnostic, consultation and intervention services for children and adolescents and their families within Capital District Health Authority.
Tel.: (902) 470-7730 or 470-8885
Fax: (902) 470-7348
IWK Autism Team
c/o Psychological Services
IWK Health Centre
5850/5980 University Avenue
PO Box 9700
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8
What to expect
A variety of clinicians may be members of your child`s team. They may include a specialist physician, a clinical psychologist, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, a nurse, a psychiatrist, an early intervention worker or educator. The members of your child`s team may change over time depending on your child and your families needs.
Preparing for a Diagnostic Assessment
When you come to the IWK for an ASD assessment you might want to consider bringing a list of questions with you, as it can be easy to forget some of the important questions you may have. In addition, you will be asked for a number of details about your child’s development so it might be a good idea to bring along some notes if you are worried that you may forget some details.
Preparing for an Intervention Appointment
When you are coming for a treatment visit (for example, with a psychologist, occupational therapist, or pediatrician) you may want to think about identifying particular challenges, what has been helpful to date and what hasn`t been. It is helpful to know what you think the most important change or improvement should be. As well, bring any questions you have about your child specifically and ASD and child development in general. From there, the team can create goals and strategies together.
Following a diagnosis you will want to ensure that you discuss any possible services your child requires and may be eligible for. If your child is preschool age, they may qualify for Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI). If they are school age, they may qualify for a Positive Behavior Support group(PBS), a Face your Fears Anxiety Group or individual treatment from a number of other healthcare professionals (e.g., occupational therapist, social worker, psychologist, speech language pathologist, developmental pediatrician or nurse).
The Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) program provides direct intensive service to young children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The EIBI program provides evidence-based treatment based on the principles of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and recent research about child development. The main form of treatment is Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT). Depending on the specific needs and skills of the child and family, other treatments might include the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).
The program is funded through the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, and is offered across the province through each of the District Health Authorities (DHA) in partnership with Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres (NSHSC). In Capital District Health Authority , DHA9, the program is offered through the IWK Health Centre in collaboration with Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres (NSHSC). Here is the link to the map of the DHA`s (http://novascotia.ca/DHW/about/DHA.asp).
For more information on the EIBI program please visit the following link http://www.gov.ns.ca/health/mhs/pubs/Intensive_FAQ.pdf
Positive Behavior Support
This group helps teach parents the skills of analyzing behaviors by collecting data, assessing the child and the data collected and reviewing strategies for preventing and managing behaviors that are associated with autism spectrum disorders.
Face your Fears
This group uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and focuses on teaching children and teens, with autism spectrum disorder, how to cope with their anxiety while teaching parents how to help coach their children in dealing with their anxiety.
Autism Support Group
Information and support for families.
Autism Nova Scotia
Toll Free (877) 544-4495