Helping Children With Autism And Parenting A Child With Autism

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Helping Children with Autism and Parenting a Child with Autism

Helping Children with Autism and Parenting a Child with Autism

Janet is a three-year-old girl who lives with her parents in a suburban neighborhood. Janet's mother is a full-time homemaker who spends much of her time caring for her daughter. Janet spends hours daily staring into the air, oftentimes seeming to poke or grab at dust particles in the air, rocking back and forth in a sitting position on the floor, and repeatedly saying phrases from television commentary. Janet does not make eye contact, communicate with spoken language, or seek cuddling with her mother, though she does take her mother's hand to lead her when she wants juice from the refrigerator. Janet rarely plays with toys her parents offer, other than lining the blocks or toys up in an arrangement and resisting with extreme anger and tantrums when the items are rearranged.

At birth Janet appeared physically healthy, and there were no identified problems during pregnancy or at birth. However, Janet did not respond to parental interactions, often looked away from her parents, and did not babble as developmentally appropriate by age six months. Janet made click noises, but made no apparent attempts to communicate with or respond to parental stimulation. As a result, Janet's parents consulted with their pediatrician, who recognized some of these symptoms as being similar to autism. Janet and her family were then referred to a pediatric psychologist who specializes in childhood development and behavioral problems. Through collaborative efforts of Janet's pediatrician, the developmental clinical psychologist, and consultations with a speech/language specialist, Janet was diagnosed with autism at 2 years and 10 months of age.

The family is currently making arrangements for Janet to attend a developmental preschool that specializes in behavioral interventions for pervasive developmental disorders. Janet's psychologist has informed the family that Janet's prognosis is greatly improved due to their early recognition of problems and proactive responses to enroll her in specialized behavioral services at a young age. However, the psychologist also indicated that each situation is specific to the client's needs, and treatment and prognosis are dependent upon Janet's needs and responses to the interventions.

Autism, or autistic disorder, is a condition, typically diagnosed in children prior to age three, in which an individual demonstrates significant impairment in communication abilities, social interactions, and a restricted repertoire of behavior, interest, and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Historically, autism has also been called early infantile autism, childhood autism , or Kanner's autism.

Currently autism is defined at three distinct but interdependent levels: as a neurological disorder related to brain development; as a psychological disorder of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development; or as a relationship disorder in which there is a failure of normal socialization (Kusch & Petermann, 1995). Autism falls within a cluster of disorders in which children demonstrate different variations of autistic-like characteristics or developmental complications. This cluster of disorders is identified as the pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). The PDD include autistic disorder, Rett's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), Asperger's disorder, ...
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