My Son Has Low Functioning Autism, What Now?

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Having a child with autism can be very challenging, and it is even more so when he is in the low functioning end of the spectrum. People who are diagnosed with Level 3 Autism, like my son, will require all the support, love, and understanding that he can get from our family and me. The symptoms of his autism are very evident, and at most times, it affects his daily functioning. He has struggles being social, and have issues communicating both verbally and nonverbally. Because of this, his behavior can also be rigid.

But I didn’t lose hope. I know for a fact that there treatment programs available for my son and other children with this disorder. This is the reason why early intervention is essential, and the immediate implementation of the program is necessary.

What Is Low Functioning Autism?

There is low functioning autism and high functioning autism. The difference between the two disorders is the behavior of the individuals challenged by it. People with low functioning autism cannot function properly in their daily lives because of their disorder. They will have problems expressing themselves, communicating with other people, being social, and they will also have issues in managing their behavior.

How Is Low Functioning Autism Diagnosed?

For experts and specialists, they can diagnose ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder during a child’s early childhood years. Some can even diagnose ASD during infancy. How do they do it?

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There are guidelines in determining if a child has ASD. This is also why most kindergarten schools all over the world have psychometricians who observe the behavior of their learners. If they see signs of the disorder in a child, they will inform the parents and recommend for them to see a neurodevelopmental pediatrician for a proper diagnosis on their child.

Children with ASD are delayed in these neurodevelopmental abilities such as talking or communication, self-soothing, cognitive skills, and more. They will not be able to function properly, and they need physical assistance most of the time. Also, children with low functioning ASD will most likely have a correlating condition like epilepsy, or Fragile X syndrome.

Fragile X Syndrome And Low Functioning ASD

Researchers believe that ASD is genetically predisposed, which is why it is sometimes diagnosed together with another genetic condition called Fragile X Syndrome. The latter is a condition wherein the development of a child, mostly his learning abilities, are gravely affected. He will have delay issues with his speech and reading. The child will also manifest anxiety, hyperactivity, and low impulse control. Studies show that a third of the kids with ASD are suffering from Fragile X Syndrome.

Epilepsy And Low Functioning ASD

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It was assessed by Dr. Patrick Bolton and his team the relationship between epilepsy and ASD. They observed that 22% of the children with low functioning autism ASD also have epilepsy. The kids were having seizures at least once a week or every two weeks by the time they were ten years old up until they were eleven. These seizures were controlled by medication, and girls were more prone to having it than boys.

There are so many things to know about low functioning ASD. Next week, another blog about the topic will be discussed. Until then, good luck! See you next week!

Don’t Be Offended When Your Child’s Teachers Tell You That Your Child May Have ASD

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I remember that very day, five years ago, when the neurodevelopmental pediatrician told me that my son has ASD. It was September 9, 2014, and after waiting three months for the appointment, the doctor confirmed the suspicions of my son’s teachers; he has Autism Spectrum Disorder. I didn’t believe his teachers before when they told me that my son was displaying symptoms of ASD. He was “normal” for me and acting like a regular, active, and playful child. What I failed to see was that he had a condition and that he needed help.

The teachers in Kindergarten were telling me before that he was too hyperactive. He was also inattentive in class according to his playschool teacher and lacked focus too. His Nursery teacher said to me last time that whenever someone passed by their classroom, he would leave his seat or whatever activity he did and go outside to follow the person who caught his attention. For them, this wasn’t normal behavior.

Back then, I asked them, “So, what is normal?” They said that while they are teachers for toddlers, they are not experts in clinically ascertaining neurodevelopment delays or special needs learners. What they have is a course on seeing the signs and symptoms of behavioral disorders in children, and that is all.

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The school psychometrician, who has more knowledge on these matters, evaluated my son, and she also told me the same thing. “Ms. Carter, I recommend that you send Michael to a neurodevelopmental pediatrician for proper assessment and testing. With my specialization and studies, I believe, he has a developmental condition. As to the extent of that condition, or the levels of what he has at the moment, I cannot be sure. A doctor in that field will be able to provide the soundest medical assessment and diagnosis of Michael.” She handed me a list. “Here are the best neurodevelopmental pediatricians in the state. If you need help with the scheduling of appointments with Dr. Smith, tell me. I may be able to squeeze in Michael for an earlier meeting. He is my cousin, and that is if you want to go with him to Michael’s testing.”

Of course, I went with Dr. Smith since everyone in the school recommended him. And yes, I asked help from the psychometrician for a schedule, and so, the appointment which was supposed to be in 4 months was lessened to 3 months. That’s how jam-packed neurodevelopmental pediatricians were in our state.

I don’t mind the doctor telling me that my son has this autism disorder or this hyperactive behavior. That’s not my point at all – I don’t care about that. He can be a super and extremely hyperactive or lacking focus during class. My son is my son, and I love him. I will support and care for him, as long as he needs me to do it for him; even more when he can’t function as well as he can in this world, like how his teachers were telling me back then. I am his mother, and I will do anything for him.

And so, my son was assessed and no surprises there, he has ASD and luckily, one of the high functioning ones. He just needed treatment, which I submitted my son to go for the past five years.

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Is he better now? I believe that he is because his OT has told me that next week will be his last therapy session. His symptoms are getting less since he knows how to cope and manage it on his own. Therapy is not anymore necessary with him at this point.

As a mother, I feel that I have done the right thing with him, and I will continue to have his back because that’s just how it is with our family.

High And Low Functioning Autism

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Low and High Functioning are very common terminologies that are utilized in determining levels of autism. Usually, their use is based on the subjectivity of the observer (whether parent, doctor or teacher) and do not have a precise measure of intelligence or mental capacity.

With recent studies and updates on DSM-5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) 5, autism is generally categorized as Autism Spectrum Disorder and is segregated into three levels. The terms High and Low Functioning persist though as these are more colloquial terms, but it must be emphasized that these terms are outdated and don’t accurately describe a person diagnosed with autism, or simply ASD.

The following are some points to consider when it comes to the subject of high and low functioning autism:

  • Both have no prevailing measures for intelligence, talent, anxiety, aggression, or sensory challenges levels.
  • Both are non-descriptive of a person’s performance in school as intelligence is just one measure of educational acuity.
  • Both are non-descriptive of the capability to function in a public setting.
  • Both provide no measure for success in job capability and performance.
  • Both have no means to identify aggression as it is present in autism of all levels.

Perception Versus What Is Normal

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High and Low Functioning Autism are terms used by observers to categorize the behavior of people with autism against what is perceived as “normal.”

A person is coined as “High Functioning,” for example, when they can use speech and language to communicate, can perform in a standard academic setting or can engage better in social situations. Low Functioning, on the other hand, is used to describe those who look or sound distinctly different; those need special education or who are visibly socially separate.

These distinctions, however, are superficial and subjective. There are gray areas within the behavior of people with autism that blur common perceptions of high or low functioning; like how a perceived low functioning autism person that’s socially withdrawn can converse normally online or a high functioning autism person needing special education due to learning challenges.

While it is convenient to categorize the behavior of people with autism to manage public perception, these labels are not reflective on one’s performance in a social, academic or professional setting and shouldn’t be used as a measure for that either. The bottom line is, using these terms are misleading and not faithful in determining where autism lies on the spectrum.

The Three Levels Of Autism

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According to DSM-5, the three levels of Autism are as follows:

Level 1 – Requiring Support: People with Autism under this level shows difficulty in flexibility, have poor organizing skills, switch between activities (and not finishing them), have problems making friends, and communicating, and more.

Level 2 – Requiring Substantial Support: People with Autism under this level shows severe difficulty in social communication skills, both verbally and nonverbally, with repetitive behaviors that are post-normal, and other signs.

Level 3 – Requiring Very Substantial Support: People with Autism under this level shows extreme issues with social skills, cannot talk as much, odd behavior, and displays basic needs only.

For a better reading, it’s recommended to use the DSM-5 as it contains a more contextual basis on the three levels of autism and everything about it.

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Findings In Autism

Autism is defined as a neurological disorder characterized by an impaired ability for social interaction and communication. Until recently, autism was publicly classified between low and high functioning. Low functioning autism was categorized as individuals having severe impairments in speech, academic performance, and social behavior, while high functioning autism meant that a person is nearer to the norms of public expectations, but not entirely.

These classifications, however, are not specific to the actual diagnosis of autistic behavior; so much so that autism is now defined by using a spectrum that grades the condition between mild to severe – wherein mild is what people would commonly classify as high-functioning. This is collectively reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the following discusses some of its key points.

Levels Of ASD

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Released in 2013, the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, consolidated all autism-based conditions under the umbrella of ASD. What this says is autism is now treated as a disorder with a varying range of severity instead of any falling into a distinct type of disorder at any one time. Notably, Asperger’s Syndrome was linked to autism due to resembling similar symptoms, but DSM-5 has since sited the difference and was removed from an autism diagnosis.

The ASD puts autism under a spectrum of varying severity, and these are three levels categorized as:

  • Level 1. Mildest level of ASD. Symptoms here do not impair work, academic or social capacity as much and could pass off as normal or high-functioning.
  • Level 2. Moderate level of ASD. This requires more support in speech and social skills.
  • Level 3. Severe level of ASD. Requires close and intensive support may require aides full-time

Treatment For ASD

ASD treatment is not standardized and is instead fitted to one’s unique condition. Diagnosis is also not distinct, but instead tests three common tenets to determine autism severity; namely, verbal or emotional development, social capability, and non-verbal communication ability. The treatment focuses on the development of these tenets, usually therapy and training, some of which include:

  • Speech Therapy – is a treatment program facilitated by a language or speech pathologists on children with ASD who have speech or language disabilities or delays. They are being taught to speak correctly.
  • Physical Therapy – is a necessary treatment program for children with ASD who have struggled with posture, balance, and strength. They are given exercises to improve their muscle strength and control, which then increases their motor skills and other developmental abilities.
  • Occupational Therapy – is a treatment program provided by a licensed occupational therapist for special needs children, including those who have ASD, to develop their fine and gross motor skills, and their daily living skills, among others.
  • Sensory Training – is a treatment program for kids with ASD to improve their sensory system.
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis – is a treatment program for ASD kids to help them and teach them how to manage their behavior.

Medication can also be utilized for the treatment of more severe symptoms.

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With this info, it’s hoped that people would ween off the use of high-functioning as a term to describe mild autism and use the now verified definition of ASD. Clarifications like these can ultimately lead to less misinformation, better objectivity, and more precise understanding of the plights of people with autism.

My Son With ASD Is My Protector – Therapists Advice Family Counseling

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Who would have thought that my special needs child, my boy, who is only eight years old, enrolled in a Montessori school and has Autism Spectrum Disorder, would be protective of me? When he was diagnosed at the age of 5, the neurodevelopmental pediatrician told me that he would have trouble relating to me, to his sisters, and other people. His therapists said to us that he will be withdrawn, and would isolate himself at times. But he wasn’t like that at all. He is very loving and very much caring of me, his siblings, and everyone around him.

I said he is protective of me because he is, and we have all seen that with him. We have problems at home, his father and me. You could say that I am a wife who takes all the bullshit, the screams, and the hits for many years. Yes, I am that woman – I was that woman, and now I am done. I am not going to be a battered wife anymore. This is for myself and my children. Whatever happens to me will affect them, and if I continue to let them witness what their dad has comfortably bestowed upon me, it will be the end of my kids. They will all suffer mental health issues, I know for sure, and I don’t want it for them.

We’ve were married for 20 years, and for nine months now, we’ve been living apart. I was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety – most of which was because of the trauma I had suffered by being with him. I am not blaming myself, but I let him use and abuse me. In a way, it was a shortcoming of mine, but it’s okay now. You can say that I have awakened from this terrible nightmare of a life, and I am moving on.

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Going back to my boy with ASD, I saw how protective he was of me. His father visits them, and when that happens, my anxiety attacks will trigger. I would tremble in fear that he would hurt me and such, but I tried my best not to let the kids see this. The problem is that my boy with ASD, the one who was supposed to be not “relating” to people because of his disorder, have seen this no matter how hard I tried to conceal it.

Every time his dad would come, he would push me inside my room and say:

“Mom, dad is here. I want you to stay in your room. Don’t go out until he leaves.”

I replied to him, “It’s okay, babe. I’ll be fine.” (We call him “babe” as a nickname.)

“No, mom,” he insisted. “Dad is here, and he will shout at you. I don’t want that. You stay in this room. Don’t go out, mom. I mean it. I will lock this door right now. I will come back to open this when he is gone.”

And he locked my door. A few minutes passed, he also opened it and told me that his dad already left and that I can go out.

This is my child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I thought, we all thought that he wouldn’t be anything. We all thought that his disorder would leave him blank. On the contrary, he wasn’t blank at all. He was the opposite of it. My boy with ASD was like any regular boy without the disorder. He was his mom’s protector and in a way that made me proud but worried.

I was worried because what if this isn’t normal behavior? Is it common for an 8-year-old boy with ASD to be protective of his mom? In my mind, he must have been very affected by our domestic problems. This must have pushed him to act this way, and what are the consequences of it? How can I help him? What if he has other mental health issues because of me and his dad?

My worry pushed me to seek advice from another therapist, a child specialist. I brought my son to her and had him evaluated, in case he has other disorders that need to be dealt with immediately. After a couple of hours, the therapist called me and said that there is no need to worry that much. My son is a high-functioning boy with ASD. He is brilliant and intelligent, and his protective nature is typical. The therapist told me that he has some temper issues (my fear – just like his dad) and that with early intervention, together with his regular OT sessions, it will be addressed. The therapist also told me that I might need to go with him during therapy and get the help that I also need.

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I told his sisters about it, and they agreed that we both have to do it. They even want to join in and make it a family therapy meeting. I called the therapist, and she said, it would be the best move to make as a family as we will heal together from this tragic event.

My love for my son and all of my children are more than enough push for me to make myself better. I am standing up now, because my 8-year-old boy, who is special, is standing up for me. If I can’t see that, then, I would be forever lost.