What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
ASD is a continuum disorder, with some people having mild symptoms and other people having severe symptoms. ASD affects a person’s ability to communicate, understand the thoughts or feelings of others, and to build age-appropriate relationships with others. Many people with ASD have ritual actions that they have to adhere to frequently. They can also be very rule-bound in their thinking. These repetitive behaviors are a soothing way for the person to relax and make sense of the world. Deprived of the ability to engage in repetitive behaviors, people with ASD can become intensely agitated or angry. Communication is limited because individuals with ASD often find it difficult to engage in pragmatic language (“How are you today?”) and social reciprocity (“I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”). They often have limited but intense interests and can monologue about these topics without realizing they are doing so. At the same time, many people with ASD are extremely intelligent and can possess phenomenal memories for factual information that interests them.
Increased knowledge of ASD has led to a rise in diagnoses in recent years. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty with eye contact
- Difficulty understanding nonverbal behaviors
- Difficulty with same-age peer relationships
- Delayed or no speech; difficulty with “small talk”
- Difficulty understanding the thoughts or feelings of others
- Limited ability to cope with anxiety
- Impaired problem-solving and organizational skills
- A need to engage in repetitive behaviors
Prior to 2013, ASD was diagnosed in various forms, including Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, and Disintegrative Disorder.
CRG providers believe that an accurate assessment is the best foundation for effective treatment. Our team of psychologists and school psychologists carry out comprehensive ASD assessments. Our evaluations often include the use of the ADOS and can help families explore eligibility for ABA services. The resulting reports describe the person’s strengths and weaknesses and how to access relevant services.
Many of our psychologists provide therapy to individuals with ASD and their families. Two of CRG’s psychologist, Dr. Sandra Burkhardt and Dr. Anna Merrill, specialize in working with individuals on the spectrum and their families. Caregiving to individuals on the spectrum can be challenging. Our psychologists offer informed clinical support to everyone in the person’s caregiving network.
CRG’s child and adolescent psychiatrist, Jason Rowland, M.D. specializes in medication management with individuals on the spectrum. Medications often help minimize the anxiety and executive functioning difficulties that many people with ASD experience. Our psychiatric nurse practitioner, Carolyn Krueger, also has an interest in providing medication therapy to individuals on the autism spectrum.
A number of CRG providers run social skills groups for children and teens. Many of the students who participate are on the spectrum. These groups help young people develop friendship skills, communication skills, greater self-awareness and self-confidence. Contact our front office for more information about groups run by CRG psychologists Dr. Nathan Larson, Dr. Sarah Norris and Dr. Anna Merrill. Dr. Sandra Burkhardt also runs a free educational group for the parents/grandparents of youth on the spectrum. These groups meet throughout the academic year at CRG. Please click here to learn more about these groups.
David Parker, Ph.D., CRG’s postsecondary disability specialist, helps individuals with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s explore postsecondary options. This can include specialized programs for students on the spectrum or disability services and related community supports for students who have the ability to attend online or traditional colleges.
Dr. Parker and Dr. Merrill offer Transition Services, which can be very helpful to young adults on the spectrum (as well as to other individuals). Transition Services is a year-long program in which the client (ages 14 – 22) meets monthly with either or both providers to identify, develop, and begin to put into place his/her goals for a satisfying life after high school. These goals are developed with the young adult at the center of the planning process, with input from parents and any other provider who works with that person. These goals can include educational options, finding or maintaining satisfying work experiences, building a fuller social life, or any other goal that is meaningful to the client.
Let Us Help You
CRG provides evidence-based, comprehensive services to individuals and their families. Our providers consult with one another to develop and implement a team-based approach to client services. Whatever your needs might be, call CRG’s Intake Line at (317) 575-9111 ext. 214 to discuss how we can help.
Watch Dr. Merrill’s and Dr. Parker’s webinar for more information about Transition Services.
Watch Dr. Sandy Burkhardt’s webinar, “Quest for Success: Steps to Transforming Problem Behavior into Problem Behaviors,” by clicking here.
Watch Dr. Sandy Burkhardt’s webinar, The Do’s and Don’s of Talking with People on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, by clicking here.