Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that affects the ability of an individual to communicate and interact with both their environment and with others. ASD is on the rise in today's youth with diagnosis rates of 1 in 45 school aged children (1). A definitive cause is not known, but there is hope…

What are the signs and symptoms of ASD?

One of the challenges of ASD is that there is a wide variety of symptoms that can occur and the severity of these symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. This variety and variation is why autism is considered to be a spectrum disorder. There are two broad categories of signs and symptoms that people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder express (2).

Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction

  • poor eye contact
  • difficulty matching appropriate behaviors to social contexts
  • not interested in peers

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities

  • flapping hands licking fingers
  • lining up of toys

People living with ASD may or may not have intellectual or language impairment, a genetic condition or other neurodevelopmental diagnoses such as ADHD. Signs and symptoms are typically recognized between 12-24 months of age (2).

Sad boy sick of autism plays with yellow toy car while his mother is looking at him

How is ASD conventionaly diagnosed?

The social and behavioral implications of this neurological disorder are widely recognized by parents, teachers and healthcare professionals, but a diagnosis is based solely on a set of observations (3, 4). There is no clinical or laboratory test that is definitive for diagnosing ASD (4). Previous theories stating that ASD was psychologically based have been dismissed, and it's now widely understood that autism is a neurological, or brain disorder (4). Essentially, the cause of ASD is a brain wiring issue, not simply a behavioral or communication issue. It is important to note that there is not one single area or set of circuits in the brain that causes autism (5). No two autistic brains are alike, and it is imperative that your child’s specific areas of dysfunction are identified. A traditional ASD diagnosis does not offer the parents a map of the child’s brain with the dysfunction localized. Patients come to Innova Brain Rehabilitation for special diagnostic testing that looks beyond the symptoms and identifies the poorly functioning networks.

How is ASD typically treated?

Due to the individuality of each person living with ASD, the many different types of therapies and treatments available may work for some and not others. Most conventional therapies offered are built to affect behavioral symptoms. Learning proper behavior and socialization are a key component to increasing function in people with ASD, but if the core neurological issue, unique to each person living with ASD, isn’t being addressed, this process is much tougher.

There are approaches that consider the brain but typically entire sections of the brain are omitted, or sometimes, a right vs left brain is model is utilized. Many therapies are aimed at one side of the brain or a specific pattern of circuits that are “common” in people living with ASD. With research stating that there is no specific region of the brain common to every person living with ASD (4) we know that more specific care is typically needed.

An individual brain based approach diagnosis at Innova

Identifying the signs and symptoms of ASD is an important factor, but uncovering the underlying neurological deficit is the essential goal. Our doctor’s address each individual's unique brain function. If your child has poor verbal communication, is the issue in the expressive speech area of the corex (Broca’s area 44), the pre-fontal cortex or Wernicke’s area that is involved with understanding speech? These are the questions the Innova doctors answer by going deeper, looking for subtle findings as they test the entire brain and nervous system region by region and circuit by circuit. Information about the brain is acquired through advanced testing of specific systems such as the oculomotor, proprioceptive, and vestibular systems. These test results, in combination with experienced observation, in-depth history, and a thorough neurological exam, allow the doctor to provide an encompassing and specific picture of your loved one’s brain and the cause of their symptoms.

Innova's innovative ASD treatment strategies

After locating problematic areas of the brain that are unique to your autistic child, our doctors implement customized and research based neurological exercises.  When your child’s unique pattern of brain function is improved with therapy ASD symptoms including, but not limited to, spatial awareness, non-verbal and verbal communication, behavioral issues, emotional outbursts, emotional connectivity and so much more are improved.

Examples of therapies performed at Innova Brain:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Oculomotor (eye movement exercises)
  • Visual-spatial training
  • Rhythm and timing therapy
  • Whole body rotational therapy (Gyrostim)
  • Cognitive exercises
  • Respiration training
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Gait training
  • Balance and coordination training

Our therapies are unique to each patient. Innova Brain does not offer a set autism treatment protocol or package, as each individual with autism is unique and varying areas of the brain require care and attention.

Sad girl crying in a kindergarten group

References

1. Zablotsky B, Black LI, Maenner MJ, Schieve LA, Blumberg SJ. Estimated Prevalence of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities Following Questionnaire Changes in the 2014 National Health Interview Survey. Natl Health Stat Report. 2015 Nov 13;(87):1-20. PubMed PMID: 26632847.

2. Association AP. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®) [Internet]. American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.

3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub; 2013 May 22. (Page 53, paragraph 4, 2nd sentence, “Diagnoses are most valid and reliable when based on multiple sources of information, including clinician's observations, caregiver history, and, when possible, self-report.)

4. Mullin AP, Gokhale A, Moreno-De-Luca A, Sanyal S, Waddington JL, Faundez V. Neurodevelopmental disorders: mechanisms and boundary definitions from genomes, interactomes and proteomes. Translational Psychiatry. 2013;3(12):e329-. doi:10.1038/tp.2013.108.

5. Lenroot RK, Yeung PK. Heterogeneity within Autism Spectrum Disorders: What have We Learned from Neuroimaging Studies? Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 30;7:733.

Look beyond the symptoms and behavior

Our doctors will take a deeper look at your child's neurology. Contact us at 770-485-6554 to schedule a complimentary consultation.