Today, we introduce Heartland AEA school Ppsychologists Kristen Bloch, Madeleine Moody and Jane Jensen and school social worker Morgan Stone, who will be regularly writing about challenging behavior and autism. If you are a parent who has concerns that your child is exhibiting signs of autism or challenging behavior, visit our Getting Started with Special Education page.
What is Autism? How is Autism Diagnosed?
Autism: The Basics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Current CDC estimates indicate that ASD occurs in 1 out of 68 children and is five times more prevalent in boys than girls. Not surprisingly, the emphasis is strong on the word “spectrum.” One saying that comes to mind is, “if you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism,” meaning that two children with the same diagnosis can have varying degrees of impairment in each of the three symptom areas.
Early diagnosis and intervention is key in addressing ASD, so it is common for primary care providers to conduct screenings for ASD at well child visits. When warranted, a full diagnostic evaluation for ASD generally includes interviewing caregivers regarding a child’s development and behavior, as well as observations of the child. A primary care provider may refer parents to a psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician for such an evaluation (National Autism Center, 2015).
Medical vs. Educational Diagnosis
Many families have questions about how to obtain an evaluation for autism as well as how to access educational services for their child. These are two different processes. Parents interested in a medical diagnosis are encouraged to speak to their child’s primary care provider, while parents interested in educational services should visit this link for the appropriate school/AEA contact information.
Heartland AEA and ASD
At Heartland AEA, our staff collaborates with schools, families and educators in many ways to help support students with a variety of needs, including ASD. Examples include, but are not limited to:
1. Professional development classes for educators on ASD and evidence-based practices.
2. Access to resources like books, journals and other library resources through the Heartland AEA Professional Library.
3. Customized instructional materials such as posters, maps and flip charts from Heartland AEA Creative Services.
4. The Autism Spectrum Parent Information Resources & Education (ASPIRE) support group for family members of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder.
5. Collaboration with schools in the implementation of supports to help youth succeed in school and prepare for a productive adulthood.
6. Services and resources that help families assist their infants and toddlers in their growth and development through our Early ACCESS services for children birth – 3 years of age.
7. Consultation with schools to interpret and comply with Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.
8. Individual evaluations for special education eligibility and collaborative services to educators of students with special needs.
9. Consultative and direct services to students with disabilities, including speech, occupational and physical therapy.
10. Specialized consultation for students with intensive needs.
At Heartland AEA, we strive to be caring, proactive and collaborative. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us.