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Future of Law Enforcement

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Running head: AUTISM AND BEHAVIORAL THERAPY

Autism and Behavior Therapy
University of South Carolina
Katina Clark

Autism

Autism is described by mental health professionals as a complex and life-long biological disorder of development that causes difficulties in communication skills, problems with social interactions, and repetitive or restrictive behaviors and interests. According to the Autism Society of America, autism is described as a “spectrum disorder”, a group of conditions with a range of similar features, rather than one condition. Children diagnosed with autism can exhibit widely different symptoms ranging from mild to severe and varying in intensity from symptom to symptom (Schoen, 2003). Autistic Disorder is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and is classified as a pervasive developmental disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). A diagnosis of autism must meet certain criteria, which are specifically outlined in the DSM-IV. Although there has been no specific cause identified for autism (Schoen, 2003), there are current studies being done to research possibilities such as congenital brain damage, a genetic disorder or a relationship between autism and vaccines. Autism can be reliably diagnosed by or before age three. The Autism Society of America has developed an Autism Checklist, which can be used to determine if a child should be medically evaluated for autism. Some of the behaviors on this checklist include difficulty in mixing with other children, repetitive behaviors, sustained odd play, difficulty in expressing needs, little or no eye contact and inappropriate laughing and giggling. Autism affects children from all parts of the world. One or two people in every one thousand are affected by autism and it is three to four times more common in boys than in girls. However, the symptoms of the disorder are much more severe in girls and girls tend to have lower intelligence (National Institute of Mental Health, 2003). The impact that autism has on both the individual and the entire family indicates the need for social work intervention. A child diagnosed as autistic requires constant attention and supervision and affects the structure of the entire family relationship. Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups. Children and families all over the nation are affected by autism and research indicates that the numbers affected are increasing. This information brings to light the need for the profession of social work to be concerned with this population. It will be imperative for someone to be able to work with this population to ensure that they receive intensive, individualized behavior interventions in order to reinforce each individual’s potential. Also, it will be important to the families affected by this disorder to receive appropriate education and services in order to cope with the special circumstances of raising an autistic child. According to research by the National Institute of Mental Health (2003), the cost of health and educational services for people with autism is over three billion dollars a year. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults who become a part of our communities. As stated before, there is currently no known cause for autism, but autism is treatable. However, treatment for this disorder varies. Schoen (2003) discussed various interventions in her research that have been used with individuals diagnosed with autism. Those include psychoanalytic, medical, educational and behavioral strategies. According to Schoen (2003), researchers often debate which is the most appropriate method and families have difficulty choosing a specific treatment option. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, persons with autism can make progress if they receive appropriate, individualized intervention.

References
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Autism Society of America. ( 2003, October 01). Autism Checklist. Retrieved October 01, 2003, from http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=checklist
Schoen, A.A. (2003). What potential does the applied behavior analysis approach have for the treatment of young children and youth with autism? [ Electronic version]. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30, 125-13).
National Institute of Mental Health. (1997). Facts about Autism (Publication No. 97- 4023). Retrieved September 29, 2003, from www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/autism.cfm

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