Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.
Symptoms and Characteristics
The disorder can range from mild to severe and so can the symptoms, ranging from extreme in one person to absent in another. The most obvious and common trait is severe trouble with social situations. In general, traits of ASD include:
Need for routines and sameness
Poor social skills
Problems making eye contact
Inability to read nonverbal cues
Lack of emotional and social reciprocity
Intense interest in one area
Inability to make same-age friends
Sensitivity to light, sound, taste, smell, and touch
Normal IQ, often with great ability in one area
Difficulty determining personal space
Rigid or monotonous speech patterns
Lack of emotional spontaneity
Three main symptoms must be present—in most cases before the age of three—for the proper diagnosis of an ASD. These are:
Impairments in social skills
Impairments in communication
Ritualistic or repetitive activities and interests
At IQRx, while we do not provide diagnoses, the fact is that many of our students come to us with previous diagnoses, including previous DSM-IV spectrum diagnoses for Asperger's, PDD-NOS, Autism, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Rhett's and current DSM-5 spectrum diagnoses of Autism Level 1, 2, or 3 or Social Communication Disorder. We help children and adults with spectrum disorder diagnoses because we address the cognitive deficits that are commonly linked to these diagnoses. In fact, our brain training programs strengthen all critical cognitive skills which is why children and adults with spectrum disorders who go through our program experience such significant improvements in school, work, and life.
Scientists and doctors generally agree Autism is caused by abnormalities in the brain and that there are many possible reasons those abnormalities occur including:
Genetic predisposition: Studies show ASD runs in families.
Environmental: Some researchers believe toxins, chemical overload, allergies, or yeast overgrowth can lead to irregularities in the brain.
Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as epilepsy, are more common in people with ASDs. Some researchers believe immune system dysfunction can lead to the changes in the brain that cause Autism.
Treatment includes psychotherapy, behavior modification therapy, social skills training, education interventions, diet modification, medication, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy, and cognitive skills training.
There is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders. But, intense one-one-one cognitive skills training with BrainRx can help people with ASD move much closer to where the effects of the disorder may be hardly noticeable. Training strengthens weak mental skills, leading to a faster, more efficient learner who’s more socially adept, happier, and more confident.
Focusing on strengths: helps compensate for weak skills.
Tutoring: a short-term fix that can help students catch up (such as after an extended absence due to illness, injury or a family move) or when instruction is not the best. Nevertheless, if used regularly to compensate for symptoms and deficiencies (not only for catching up due to special circumstances), the need for tutoring will continue since it is not targeting the root cause.
Accommodation: students and teachers adapt to, and work around, limitations. Some accommodations include: extra time, allowing use of calculators, adjusting difficulty of tasks, separating complicated problems into smaller steps, using visual aids to remind basic concepts, allowing the child to test alone in a private room, additional time, breaking the test in sections, simplifying instructions, seating in the front row among others, can sometimes help the student focus and prevent class disruptions.
Nutrition: You might also be able to reduce the frequency or severity of the symptoms by limiting the intake of foods containing non-organic dyes, gluten or other particular diet considerations. Controlling sugar consumption can also be helpful as well as supplementing with Omegas. Including plenty of varied fruits and vegetables as well as non-processed foods is key to brain health. Ensuring appropriate hydration is also essential for brain function and overall health. IQRx works with our Juice Plus partners in improving nutrition and a healthy lifestyle (mdevarona.juiceplus.com). IQRx counts with support of a licensed nutritionist for additional consultations when needed.
Exercise: Physical exercise is also effective to manage some symptoms and overall brain health. Exercise has been found to reduce brain cell loss, reduce risk of depression and anxiety, and help you sleep better. Exercising regularly increases blood flow therefore achieving better brain oxygenation. Children should exercise 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise including bone and muscle training at least 3 days a week. Adults should exercise at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 of vigorous exercise) and muscle strengthening twice a week.
Sleep Habits: Getting the proper amount of sleep is known to optimize mental functioning. While sleeping, the brain is regenerating neurons and consolidating memory. There are tables to offer guidance as to how much sleep is needed per age. In general, preschoolers (3 - 5 years old) require 10 - 13 hours a day including naps. Elementary students (6 - 12 years old) need 9 - 12 hours a day. Teenagers (13 - 18) need 8 - 10 hours a day and adults (> 18 years old) require at least 7 hours a day. There are natural ways to ensure proper sleep health such as using aromatherapy, essential oils, specific teas, white noise, ensuring no electronics are emitting light, removing mobile phones and other electronics from the room or not keeping them nearby, using melatonin.
Protecting the Brain: Wear helmets when riding bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, horses, etc., and when playing contact sports like football or rugby. Protect the brain from chemical contaminants in the environment as well as in food or by avoiding drugs, cigarette, and alcohol consumption.
Brain Training: Cognitive skills training attacks the root causes of ASD by strengthening weak cognitive skills. Training strengthens weak mental skills, leading to a faster, more efficient learner who’s more socially adept, happier, and more confident.
Unlike tutoring, which focuses on specific academic subjects (like history), cognitive skills training treats the causes of learning struggles to help children, teens, and adults excel in school, sports, the workplace, and extracurricular activities (like sports, music, art, and dance).
IQRx Cognitive Training Programs Include:
Targeted Tutoring after training: Once the student has improved and efficient cognitive skills, IQRx can close the gap of knowledge content through targeted tutoring. These sessions will only be temporary until the student reaches the appropriate level of content.
Studying Techniques: IQRx can also provide studying skills necessary for success through individual sessions or group workshop of our Studying Habits and Memorization Techniques (TEM: Técnicas de Estudio y Memoria). This program should be completed once the student has improved learning skills through brain training in order to obtain the greatest benefit and ensure that the student can in fact apply everything learned. Once learning is maximized, IQRx can teach the student how to organize, plan, manage time, prepare for tests, take notes, prepare reviews, and different memorization techniques to support their studying process. TEM can be acquired through individualized one on one sessions, a group workshop, or a group workshop paired with individualized coaching.
Asperger’s Disorder Homepage
O.A.S.I.S. Online Asperger Syndrome
Information & Support
Autism Research Institute
Autism Society of America
The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds
BrainRx training was beneficial to understand who I am, my areas of strength and weakness. It was good to work with others on the exercises. It was worth the commitment. I feel it has helped me focus on areas of weakness that I can continue to work on, to improve and have a more fulfilled life.
- Caroline S.