Children with Autism Education for Individuals in Edison, NJ

At Aspiring Minds, we provide children with autism education in Edison, NJ, and we have often heard the question of, “what is autism exactly?” Read on to learn about the condition and how it can relate to autism programs.

Because we have a greater understanding of autism, more children are identified with the condition. Before 1991’s classification by the US Department of Education of autism as eligible for special education, children with autism were labeled as “emotionally disturbed.” As a result of the new classification, there was an increase of 1,354% in students identified with autism. This increased awareness caused parents to seek diagnoses while advocating for a free and appropriate education for children with autism.

Autism has core identifying features, but it provides unique challenges for each child, and no two children will present with the core traits. Some children have milder forms because autism affects different parts of the brain differently. Children with autism generally have social and communication impairments, restricted interests, repetitive, fixed routines, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, making teachers’ tasks very complex.

Verbal communication is difficult for those with autism, and they often do not make eye contact, show interest in others, or show affection. However, all children are unique, even if they share similar core features.

Professionals around the world use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and it evolves with new perspectives. Each new version offers an updated description of autism. In the earliest manual, autism was identified as schizophrenia. Now, in DSM-5, the diagnosis provides a combined definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which guides health professionals in designing autism programs.

DSM-5 removed the difference between “high-functioning” and “low-functioning.” No matter their functional level, children with autism still grapple with effective learning and socializing. Students who were previously considered “high-functioning” will still be identified as having autism and continue to receive services without a new evaluation. The new descriptor of ASD makes diagnosis more precise and less confusing for parents, teachers, and service providers. The DSM-5 also recognizes the possibility of a diagnosis of ADHD within ASD.

ASD Narrows Autism to Two Deficits:

  • Social-communication impairment
  • Restrictive and repetitive behaviors

These deficits are now defined by the level of support an individual needs.

While redefining autism, the DSM-5 came up with the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder SPCD (Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder). The DSM-5 identified no practical reason to separate Asperger’s Syndrome from autism, and as a result, the diagnosis of Asperger’s no longer exists. Finally, the DSM-5 no longer requires the symptoms of autism to begin before age three as long as they start in early childhood.

The term “pervasive” carries no weight in the manual because the symptoms are more specific to communication, repetitive behaviors, and fixated interests than pervasive. SPCD includes impaired verbal and nonverbal communication that compromises relationships and the inability of meaningful participation in school or work. A diagnosis of SPCD is relevant to social skills and leads to a more accurate diagnosis of individuals with social communication impairments.

sensitivities graphic

In a larger sense, what does SPCD look like?

  • Not responding to one’s name, along with fleeting or poor eye contact.
  • Difficulty with conversations or persevering on a topic of interest.
  • Using scripted language or echoing from a movie, or TV, for example, where the child repeats scenes from a TV show or movie.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Difficulty in understanding nonverbal communication.
  • Inability to participate in pretend play.
  • Difficulty using language to communicate and using an Augmentative Communication device or picture exchange system.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities include:

  • The student may exhibit strong interests in a specific topic or toy or have extreme interests, such as naming all mammals, memorizing all categories of planes, and naming them.
  • Being rigid about daily routines, or specific placements for objects, for instance.
  • Atypical body movements such as spinning in circles, rocking back and forth, walking on their toes, flapping their hands, or flicking their fingers.
  • Over or under-sensitivity to temperatures, textures, smells, or sounds. Reluctance to wear or sleep on certain fabrics, and intolerance for tags.
  • Unusual play-based behaviors like lining up toys, categorizing them, placing them in a position that cannot be changed. Some children repetitively drop objects to watch them fall, or spin objects that are not meant to spin.
  • Atypical gaze whereby the individual peers at objects from the corner of his or her eye and moves them in and out of their field of view. The child might also flick toy car wheels while watching them spin repeatedly.

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder includes difficulties in social, verbal, and non-verbal communication as manifest by deficits in the following:

  • Social communications, such as greeting, or responding to others’ greetings of others, sharing information with others.
  • Adapting communication methods depending on the audience, such as friends or strangers, taking turns in conversations, accepting the opinions of others, interpreting nonverbal language of others.
  • Understanding what is not obvious and making inferences that aren’t verbalized.