Unit 1: What is ASD and how is it diagnosed?

From KNILT

Objectives

  1. Develop an understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by learning all the disabilities the spectrum encompasses.
  2. Learn how ASD is diagnosed by evaluating the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.
  3. Understand the developmental differences between students diagnosed with ASD and typically developing students by comparing the developmental milestones of each.
  4. Understand why learning about ASD is important as an educator by evaluating graphs that show the rapid growth in ASD amongst current and future students.

Beginning Activities

Autism KWL Chart


Follow the Autism Video to watch a short video about Autism. This video gives a brief introduction to Autism and how it is diagnosed (use the back button in your browser to return to Unit 1). [Autism Video] (Halliday 2009)

Rationale

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continue to grow rapidly each year. From 1993-2007 the number of confirmed children with ASD has grown 1558% (fightingautism.org, 2009) From 2003-2007 the growth has been 753% (fightingautism.org, 2009). These numbers mean that we have a growing number of students with ASD in our school system, and a huge number of children diagnosed with ASD who have not yet entered our school system. Students diagnosed with ASD have unique needs that require teachers to have knowledge of this disorder and the accompanying educational challenges. With the push for inclusion classrooms, all teachers, not just special education teachers, need to have a better understanding of students diagnosed with ASD.

ASD Graph1.jpg

ASD Graph2.jpg

Background on Autism

What are autism spectrum disorders?


“Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities caused by a problem with the brain. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes this problem. ASDs can impact a person’s functioning at different levels, from very mildly to severely. There is usually nothing about how a person with an ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary – from gifted to severely challenged. Autistic disorder is the most commonly known type of ASD, but there is other” disorders within the spectrum (CDC.gov 2009)


Autism Spectrum Disorder is an Umbrella term for:

  • Autism
  • Rett’s Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • PDD – NOS or Atypical Autism
  • Asperger’s Disorder


Definitions

  • Autism: “A pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication, by an extremely limited range of activities and interests, and often by the presence of repetitive, stereotyped behaviors.” (“Autism” 2009)


  • Rett’s Syndrome: “Familial disorder that affects females usually during infancy, that results from arrested brain development, and that is characterized by cognitive and psychomotor deterioration, dementia, stunted head growth, stereotyped hand movements, and mild hyperammonemia” (“Rett’s Syndrome” 2009)


  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: “Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition occurring in 3- and 4-year-olds who have developed normally to age 2. Over several months, a child with this disorder will deteriorate in intellectual, social, and language functioning from previously normal behavior.” (Healthline 2006)


  • PDD – NOS or Atypical Autism: “Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a ‘subthreshold’ condition in which some – but not all – features of autism or another explicitly identified Pervasive Developmental Disorder are identified. PDD-NOS is often incorrectly referred to as simply “PDD.” The term PDD refers to the class of conditions to which autism belongs. PDD is NOT itself a diagnosis, while PDD-NOS IS a diagnosis. The term Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also referred to as “atypical personality development,” “atypical PDD,” or “atypical autism”) is included in DSM-IV to encompass cases where there is marked impairment of social interaction, communication, and/or stereotyped behavior patterns or interest, but when full features for autism or another explicitly defined PDD are not met.” (Yale School of Medicine, 2008)


  • Asperger’s Disorder: “In Asperger's Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs, hinges, cappucino, meteorology, astronomy or history. The name "Asperger" comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944.” (Aspergers.com 2009)


Diagnosis

Since the cause of ASD is unknown diagnosis is evaluated by the patient meeting at least 6 of the listed criteria for diagnosis. Follow the link below which will bring you to a list of criteria for an ASD diagnosis. (Use the back button on your browser to return to unit 1 when finished)

[ASD Diagnosis Criteria] (Lord 2009)

Developmental Milestones

The following link has information about developmental milestones for typically developing children. Use this information to compare differences amongst typically developing children and those diagnosed with ASD.

[Developmental Milestones] (Boyce 2009)


Reflection

  1. What is ASD and what syndromes are encompassed in the ASD umbrella?
  2. What are the defining characteristics of each disorder?
  3. Evaluate similarities and differences amongst the disorders in the spectrum.
  4. What developmental milestones are missing in students diagnosed with ASD?
  5. As an educator, why do you think it is important to have an understanding of ASD?