An intervention program may require techniques from additional approaches such as Discrete Trial Training and Behavior Modification, depending on the client’s current learning abilities and individual needs.
What is Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder?
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.
What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language. Other disorders include the ability to do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements or direct attention. Learning disabilities do occur in young children, but are often not recognized until the child reaches school age. Learning disabilities can often be lifelong conditions. Some people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact. Other people may have several overlapping learning disabilities that are apparent.
Special education is the most common treatment for learning disabilities. A specially trained educator will perform a diagnostic educational evaluation which assesses the child's academic and intellectual potential, along with the child's level of academic performance. After the evaluation is completed, the educator will use a basic approach of teaching learning skills that build on the child's abilities and strengths. Simultaneously, the educator is correcting and compensating for disabilities and weaknesses. Often because of such deficits, like “learned helplessness” or other behavioral issues that can often be manifestations, other professionals may be brought in; such as speech and language therapists, behavior analysts, or psychologists. Other measures such as certain medications may be effective in helping the children by enhancing attention and concentration.
Specific learning disabilities include: auditory processing disorder (affects how sound travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain), dyscalculia (affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts), dysgraphia (affects person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills), dyslexia (affects reading and related language-based processing skills),language processing disorder (difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences, and stories), and visual perceptual/visual motor deficit (affects the understanding of information that a person sees, or ability to draw or copy)
What is Non-Verbal Learning Disorder?
A non-verbal learning disorder (NLD or NVLD) is a disorder that is usually characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, social, and visual-spatial skills. Typically, individuals with NLD or NVLD have trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language, and also may have poor coordination. Children who generally excel in some domains, yet struggle in others, often sense these gaps and act out behaviorally as a way of dealing with the instability that they feel.
What is Apraxia?
Apraxia, also known as dyspraxia (if a mild case), is a neurological disorder that is characterized by the loss of the ability to execute or carry out skilled movements and gestures; even though the desire and the physical ability to perform them are present. Apraxia is the result of the dysfunction of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, usually the parietal lobe which can arise due to many different diseases or due to damage to the brain.
If apraxia is the symptom of another disorder, then the underlying disorder should be treated. In general, treatment for apraxia include: physical, speech, or occupational therapy. Again, for some children who struggle in being able to execute skills effectively, learned helplessness and resistive behaviors can evolve; which would require the assistance of a behavior analyst to increase the motivation for the child to “try,” while decreasing some of the maladaptive behaviors that might have developed.
What is Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention Deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects 3-5 percent of all American children. ADHD interferes with a person’s ability to stay on task and to exercise age-appropriate inhibition (cognitive alone or both cognitive and behavioral). There are several types of ADHD; a predominately hyperactive-impulsive subtype, a predominately inattentive subtype, and a combined subtype. ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, although the condition can continue into the adult years. Some of the warning signs of ADHD include: fidgeting with hands and feet, failure to listen to instructions, having trouble paying attention to and responding to details, inability to organize oneself and school work, talking too much, and leaving projects, chores and homework unfinished. Often times, these children are misunderstood and viewed as apathetic or oppositional in nature.
The common course of treatment may include stimulant medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) which decreases impulsivity and hyperactivity and increase attention. Most experts agree that treatment for ADHD should not be limited to the use of medications alone, but need to address multiple aspects of the child’s life, including teaching children strategies on how to stay focused. These aspects include: structured classroom management, parent education (to address discipline and limit-setting), tutoring, and/or behavioral therapy for the child. There is no cure for ADHD. Typically children with ADHD seldom outgrow it. Individuals with ADHD can find adaptive ways to accommodate the ADHD as they get older.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in activity levels, energy, mood, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Bipolar disorder symptoms are severe; they are very different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Also manic/depressive cycles can vary in severity. In between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, but some people may have lingering symptoms. Bipolar symptoms can damage relationships, cause poor job or school performance, and can even cause suicide. Most scientists studying possible causes of bipolar disorder agree that there is no single cause; rather there are many contributing factors that act together to produce the illness or increase risk of illness. Bipolar disorder typically lasts a lifetime.
Bipolar disorders tend to be genetic (run in families). Children with a family history (parent or sibling) are at a greater risk of developing the disorder whereas children that do not have a family history of the disorder are less likely to develop the disorder.
Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but it can be effectively treated over time. In order for treatment to be effective it is important to work closely with a doctor and talk openly about concerns and choices. Typical treatment includes a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and sometimes behavioral therapy. There are several different medications that can help control symptoms of bipolar disorder. Not everyone responds to medications in the same way, sometimes resulting in the need to try several different medications before finding the one that works best for the individual. The types of medications used to treat bipolar disorder include: antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotics
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
There are wide variety of anxiety disorders, including: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia (social anxiety disorder). While anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in certain situations, for others, anxiety can become excessive. The person that is suffering may realize that their anxiety is too much; however, they have difficulty controlling it, which may result in negative effects in their day-to-day living. There are several parts of the brain that are key components in the production of fear and anxiety. Scientists have used brain imaging technology and neurochemical techniques to discover that the amygdala and hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is believed to be a communication hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts of the brain that interpret these signals. It alerts the rest of the brain that a threat is present, which in turn triggers a fear or anxiety response. Emotional memories are stored in the central part of the amygdala and can also play a role in anxiety disorders that involve very distinct fears such as dogs, spiders, or flying.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories. It has been shown in studies that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in some people who were child abuse victims or who served in military combat. Research will determine what causes the reduction in size, as well as what role it plays in the deficits in explicit memory, flashbacks, and fragmented memories of the traumatic event (PTSD).Scientists currently believe that mental illnesses are most likely the combination of genetic, environmental (pollution, physical and psychological stress, and diet), developmental, and psychological factors. In general anxiety disorders are treated with medication (antidepressants, SSRI’s, tricyclics, MAOI’s, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers), specific types of psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Choices for treatment depend on both the problem and the person’s preference. While medication will not cure the anxiety disorder, it does keep them under control while the person receives psychotherapy.
What is Fragile X Syndrome?
Fragile X syndrome (Martin-Bell syndrome) is the most common inherited form of mental retardation. It is a genetic disorder which results from mutations in a gene on the X chromosome and results in developmental and intellectual disabilities. Statistics show that between 2.5 percent and 6 percent of autistic individuals have fragile X syndrome and 25 percent of children with fragile X have autism. Applied Behavior Analysis is still, to date, proven to e the most effective form of treatment when treating children with Autism or Fragile X, and is supported empirically.
What is Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory integration (sensory processing) refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and then turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the sensory signals do not get organized into the appropriate responses. This results in challenges in performing everyday tasks. SPD poses behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, motor clumsiness, school failure, and other impacts if the disorder is not treated effectively. SPD is most commonly diagnosed in children. SPD is most likely the result of both genetic and environmental causes.
Most children with SPD are just as intelligent as their peers; in fact many are intellectually gifted. Children with SPD have brains that are wired differently and they need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information. Often times, children with sensory integration disorder are misunderstood as “aggressive,” rather than seen as sensory-seeking individuals. The child is often punished for behaviors that were not ill-intended, which can lead to other learned maladaptive behaviors. Once children are accurately diagnoses with SPD, they benefit from a treatment program of occupational therapy (OT) with a sensory integration (SI) approach, as well as support from a behavior analyst well-versed with the sensory integration piece.
What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
Intermittent explosive disorder is the repeated episodes of aggressive, impulsive, and violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which a person reacts grossly out of proportion to the situation. As a result, individuals with intermittent explosive disorder may attack others and their possessions, thus causing bodily injury and property damage. They can also injure themselves during an outburst. Explosive episodes usually last less than 30 minutes. They can occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months of nonaggression. Later, once the episode is over, the individual may feel remorse, regret, or even embarrassment. The exact cause of intermittent explosive disorder is unknown, but it is most likely caused by a number of environmental (verbal and physical abuse) and biological (genetics and brain chemistry) factors. Treatment for intermittent explosive disorder may involve medications and behavioral therapy in order to help the individual control their aggressive impulses.
What is Seizure Disorder?
Seizure disorder (epilepsy) is a spectrum of brain disorders, ranging from severe, life-threatening and disabling, to ones that are more benign. With seizures the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, which causes strange sensations, emotion and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. There are many possible causes, as well as types of seizures. An individual can have an isolated seizure due to a high fever (febrile seizure) or head injury, but not have a seizure disorder. It is only when an individual has two or more seizures that they are considered to have a seizure disorder. Brain scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) and the measurement of electrical activity in the brain are diagnostic tests that are used for epilepsy.Epilepsy cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with diet, medication, devices, and/or surgery. Most seizures do not cause brain damage; however, if seizures are uncontrolled they may cause permanent brain damage, which can be disorienting to the affected individual. Such disorientation can lead to issues of anxiety, frustration, and other maladaptive behaviors; and thus, treatment may also include behavioral therapy and special education practices as well.