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Dr. Posadas conducting an assessment
Jul 29, 2022

Academic Success Program: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Parents know their kids best. When your child is missing developmental milestones, falling behind at school, or struggling with social skills, your parental senses are alerted – even if you cannot pinpoint it.

In 2021, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2018 data. And boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

When diagnosing a learning disorder, several common learning ailments will be assessed, such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and other intellectual disabilities, including autism.

If you suspect your child might have a learning disorder, TrueCare’s Academic Success Program can assist with diagnosis and prognosis. TrueCare is the only Community Health Center to offer an Academic Success Program (ASP) to anyone. Struggling students can get tested at TrueCare in San Marcos and Oceanside.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Children begin to show signs before they are 3 years old.

Children with autism may have a hard time developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job. In addition, conditions such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can affect people with ASD.

What are the signs and symptoms of autism?

It’s important to note that people with autism have a hard time with social communication and interaction, and show restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests, according to the CDC. People with autism may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.

Below are some examples of traits that children with ASD may show. It is important to be sure to discuss any observed delays in your child with you pediatrician so that interventions may be promptly implemented if necessary.

Social communication and social interaction characteristics:

  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact
  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age (for example, does not wave goodbye)
  • Does not share interests with others by 15 months of age (for example, shows you an object that they like)
  • Does not point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Does not notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Does not notice other children and join them in play by 36 months of age
  • Does not pretend to be something else, like a teacher or superhero, during play by 48 months of age
  • Does not sing, dance, or act for you by the age of 5 years old

Restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests:

  • Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (called echolalia)
  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Is focused on parts of objects (for example, wheels)
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Must follow certain routines
  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

Other characteristics:

  • Delayed language skills
  • Delayed movement skills
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • Gastrointestinal issues (for example, constipation)
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions
  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected

Want to know more about what a pediatrician does? Check out our blog here for an in-depth look at pediatrics.

How to Treat Autism

Currently treatments for autism work to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life, according to the CDC. Since ASD affects individuals differently, their treatment plan is unique and typically involves multiple professionals.

There are many different approaches. The CDC breaks them down into the following categories:

  • Behavioral: Focuses on changing behaviors by understanding what happens before and after the behavior.
  • Developmental: Focuses on improving specific developmental skills, such as language skills or physical skills.
  • Educational: Focuses on using specific techniques in the classroom.
  • Social-Relational: Focuses on improving social skills and building emotional bonds.
  • Psychological: Focuses on helping people with ASD cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
  • Complementary and Alternative: Focuses on special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies.

There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of ASD. However, some medications do treat co-occurring symptoms, ultimately helping someone with ASD function better.

What steps can I take to help my child?

The first step is to seek professional advice. If a teacher or caregiver is pointing out behavioral or learning issues or you are concerned, talk to your child’s provider. New patients can call or text TrueCare to schedule a pediatric appointment at (760) 736-6767.

TrueCare provides a number of health services for children, adults, and the elderly, including wellness checks. Our providers are committed to quality comprehensive care with heart. Contact your local TrueCare health center today to set up your appointment to improve your heart health.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.


>> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
>> American Academy of Pediatrics
>> Autism Society
>> Autism Speaks
>> National Institute on Child Health and Human Development

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Jessica L. Randalls, PA
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