Post 1: Environmental Design for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
 I've spent the past few weeks delving into how to design a home or classroom for someone with autism.  This is the first post of my findings.  Prior to going into details here are a few cursory notes about autism spectrum disorder just to make sure we're on the same page.

What Is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? 
According to the Autismspeaks.org website:  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. 

How is Autism diagnosed?  

According to CDC.gov:  Diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can be difficult, since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
ASDs can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.   However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with an ASD might not get the help they need.



What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

According to Autismspeaks.org:  Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life.
As illustrated by the graph on the left, the basic symptoms of autism are often accompanied other medical conditions and challenges. These, too, can vary widely in severity.
While autism is usually a life-long condition, all children and adults benefit from interventions, or therapies, that can reduce symptoms and increase skills and abilities. Although it is best to begin intervention as soon as possible, the benefits of therapy can continue throughout life.







Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic staff No cure exists for autism, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for autism can be overwhelming.
The goal of treatment is to maximize your child's ability to function by reducing autism symptoms and supporting development and learning. Your doctor can help identify resources in your area. Treatment options may include:
  • Behavior and communication therapies. Many programs address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with autism. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Others focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or how to communicate better with other people. Though children don't always outgrow autism, they may learn to function well.
  • Educational therapies. Children with autism often respond well to highly structured education programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show good progress.
  • Family therapies. Parents and family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
  • Medications. No medication can improve the core signs of autism, but certain medications can help control symptoms. For example, antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems. Other medications may be prescribed if your child is hyperactive.
Managing other medical conditions
Children with autism may also have other medical conditions, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, limited food preferences or stomach problems. Ask your child's doctor how to best manage these conditions together. Keep all of your child's health care providers updated on any medications and supplements your child is taking. Some medications and supplements can interact, causing dangerous side effects.

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