April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, which kickstarts Autism Awareness Month. Greenwood Clinical Director and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Holly Barszcz, answers questions that families may have when they first see their child displaying signs of autism.
What behaviors point to autism?
“There’s some early signs you can look for. A lot of it is not making eye contact, social skills are delayed, they aren’t babbling, they’re not smiling. A lot of times typical developing kids will reach for their parents or a caregiver, but those that are on the spectrum typically will not do that. They will not reach for a preferred item. They will also line toys up and engage in hand flapping or rocking movements.”
And what about for older kids?
“There are also some later signs if you don’t catch it earlier on. Sometimes kids will develop all of these skills and all of a sudden regress. Then it seems that all of the skills they have mastered are no longer there.”
What can concerned parents do?
“The first thing families should do [if they suspect their child has autism] is see their pediatrician. Sometimes pediatricians have that knowledge to give you some other people to contact, such as a psychiatrist who will do a diagnostic evaluation.”
Tell us about a normal therapy day.
“It seems like if you walk around our center we play. We play an awful lot with the kids and the reason we do that is we use that child’s motivation – what they want and what they want to work for — as a key way to elicit the skills we’re trying to get them to develop. If a kid is trying to learn how to point and we know they really love the iPad, we’re going to get them engage and try to point for the item, for the iPad, so they can get the iPad as reinforcement. It looks like a lot of play – we have a lot of fun here – but we are using that kid’s motivation to teach them those skills.”
Do you see results from therapy?
“We have had a ton of success. It’s really amazing to see the kids develop and how we’re impacting the families. We have kids that return back to school and be completely successful. We have other kids that we teach how to tie their shoes or wear their coat to go outside, and those skills are also very impactful.”
Any advice for families?
“Take one day at a time. Make sure that you get them [scheduled] to see the right health individuals to help you. Go see your pediatrician, see a psychiatrist and get the diagnostic evaluation. More importantly, they’re children… love them. There is hope for everyone out there.”
Watch the video of Holly’s interview with RTV6 The Indy Channel by clicking this photo:
April 2, 2018, Morgan McClellan