Frequently Asked Questions About Autism & Autism Treatment

1. What are the early signs of autism?

The following is a listing of developmental delays or behavioral problems that are indicators that a child may have autism:

  • Lack of, or delay in the development of spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or repetitive motor mannerisms, like hand-flapping and twirling objects
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

Individuals with autism experience their environment in unique ways that often differ from same aged peers.  Generally, these differences appear in three basic areas:

(1)  Communication, (2) Obsessive Behavior, and (3) Socialization.

In the Communication domain, symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in expressing needs verbally, using gestures or pointing instead of using words
  • Repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language
  • Non-responsiveness to verbal instructions; often appears as if child is deaf even though hearing tests in normal range

In the Obsessive Behavior domain, symptoms include:

  • Insistence on rigid routines
  • Focus on spinning objects, such as a fan or the propeller of a toy helicopter
  • Obsessive attachment to particular objects

In the Socialization domain, symptoms include:

  • Laughing and/or crying for no apparent reason
  • Showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
  • Preferring to be alone; appears aloof to strangers and family members
  • Tantrums and low frustration tolerance
  • Difficulty in initiating social contact with others
  • Uncomfortable with physical contact even when given with affection, such as a hug
  • Little or no eye contact even when spoken to directly
  • Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
  • Plays with toys as objects, like banging a toy car as a block rather than as a moving vehicle
  • Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain
  • No fear of danger despite obvious risks of harm
  • Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
  • Impaired fine motor and gross motor skills
2. Will my autistic child be able to attend school?

Federal and state law protects the rights of individuals with autism and other disabilities to access free and appropriate public education.  Vista can assist you with evaluating your son or daughter’s needs for support in the educational environment so that you can have clear, clinical information to work with your son or daughter’s school on developing the most appropriate support plan.

3. Are individuals with autism also mentally retarded?

Autism and mental retardation don’t necessarily go together. Some studies suggest that as few as 40% of the population with autism are also mentally retarded. It should be pointed out that any attempt at clarifying this issue is ambiguous due to the fact that it is often difficult to determine if an individual with autism is also mentally retarded.

4. What other disabilities are most often seen in individuals with Autism?

Mental retardation, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Fragile-X Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, Bi-Polar Disorder and Manic Depressive, just to name a few.

5. What is the best age for a child to start an ABA program?

Research indicates that early intervention will produce the swiftest and most significant result, but it is never too late to get started.  The techniques and strategies of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) are applicable to individuals of all ages.  The sooner your child begins our program the faster you will see improvements.

6. How do I get started with Treatment?

If you suspect that your child may have autism or some other developmental condition, your first step is to obtain a clinical evaluation from a qualified professional.  In the evaluation process it will be determined whether your son or daughter has a recognizable diagnosis.  With a clear diagnosis, you will have the starting point for your son or daughter’s journey of growth and development. Contact us directly and we will guide you through the process of getting a clinical evaluation.

7. I have heard that the more therapy the better. My child is still quite young. Won’t he get tired if the program is time intensive?

One of the fundamental components of a good ABA program is an accurate assessment of an individual’s needs and the implementation of an effective amount of treatment time.  Many young children do well when immersed in an intensive program of 25 to 40 hours per week.  For other children with less intensive behavioral deficits and/or excesses, smaller increments of time would be more effective.

Working regularly with children as young as 30 months, ABA professional staff have unequaled expertise in providing treatment sessions that are age-appropriate, energetic, playful and full of reinforcing activities, while respecting the natural stamina of the child. When intervention is creative, natural and fun children are eager participants, fatigue and ability to engage are closely monitored and the number of weekly intervention hours are adjusted accordingly.

8. How many hours of ABA treatment should my child receive?

The goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for your child. Since research and clinical experience confirm that individualized treatment plans produce the best results for individuals with autism, clients receive a range of treatment plans, from as little as 5 hours to as many at 40 hours per week. An ABA professional will be able to give you an individualized recommendation during your assessment process.

9. Should individuals with autism take medication?

Because Vista practices in the field of ABA, we do not have the license or credentials to make a recommendation in this area.  However, we do know that research indicates that some individuals with autism benefit from the use of properly prescribed medication.

There is no “miracle drug” or any single one that consistently works the same on all individuals. We therefore recommend that you seek a physician who is knowledgeable about autism and who can assess your son or daughter’s individual needs in order to determine whether a medication treatment plan is necessary.

10. As a parent, will I be involved in my child’s ABA treatment?

Parent involvement and the ability to implement ABA procedures are essential for obtaining the best long-term outcome for a child. Therefore, we are committed to our partnership with parents.  Our services for parents include training in appropriate procedures, support in implementing these procedures with their son or daughters, clinical consultation, and goal setting. To improve their skills, parents often participate in weekly ABA sessions and attend monthly clinic meetings with their child’s clinical team. We recognize this is a tremendous commitment of time and energy, but we know it is critical to success of their child’s program and the family’s quality of life. The success of the work Vista’s ABA team does with a child is greatly amplified by the involvement and expertise of parents.

11. As a parent, I’m concerned I’ll have too much to do. Any advice?

We know that the best results from ABA services require a considerable amount of parent participation, but this is a good thing!  We know that you as the parent are the expert on your child’s needs, and after we have concluded our services you will continue to be there to provide love and support for your child as the years go by.  Because of these factors, we need your active participation in your child’s program so that we can help you acquire the tools needed to maintain the gains your child will make in our program.

The initial learning curve is steep but most parents know instinctively that the extra time and effort spent now will reduce stress on the entire family in a short time and result in the child requiring less intensive intervention in the future.

12. What is the length of an ABA program?

There is no standard program length as all clients are assessed and served on an individualized basis.  On average, we work with clients for a period of one to three years.  The length of the program is predicated on many factors, including the client’s goals, the rate of acquisition of skills and pro-social behaviors, and the availability of the key members of the client’s circle of support to participate in the program.

13. Explain why some individuals with autism recover and some do not?

There are several factors that influence outcome. There are factors that can be controlled, such as age at the start of intervention, intensity of intervention and quality of intervention. There are factors we cannot control that are critical as well, such as cognitive ability and parent involvement. Outcome is based upon the combination of these and other factors.

14. Isn’t it true that even after many years of intensive behavioral therapy some individuals with autism still show behavioral characteristics of autism?

ABA services are neither magical nor a cure-all, but they are wel recognized as the most effective clinical service to produce positive results in individuals with autism.   No ABA provider can genuinely promise to eliminate every inappropriate behavior or correct every skill deficiency in their clients.  However, with rigorous and consistently applied 1-to-1 programming, most clients make outstanding progress and their quality of life is greatly enhanced.

15. What is a reasonable expectation for my child’s potential progress?

Parents will only experience false hopes if they set their expectations on perfection.  In the context of the assessment process, Vista will provide you with a realistic picture of what we believe we can acheive with your son or daughter and we will set goals that are measurable and achievable for them.

16. Can you predict which individuals have a greater chance of recovery?

There are signs that are favorable but not absolute. Children that have the presence of language, social interest and less challenging behaviors tend to do better than those children who do not communicate, are socially unresponsive and more disruptive.

17. Can Vista be used to provide services funded by California regional centers?

Vista is vendored to provide ABA treatment to clients of regional centers in the Los Angeles area, particularly North Los Angeles County Regional Center (NLACRC), Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center (ELARC), San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center (SGPRC), Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center, Westside Regional Center and South Central Los Angeles Regional Center. We also offer group parent education, which is a 16 hour class for parents and other caregivers in the basic strategies and methods of ABA, for NLACRC clients. For teens and young adults, we offer Adaptive Skills Training for NLACRC, SGPRC and ELARC clients.

18. What areas of Southern California do you serve?

Vista offers services to families who reside in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, San Gabriel/Pomona area, East Los Angeles, Los Angeles proper, South Central Los Angeles and the West Los Angeles regions.

19. Can Vista provide services in my home?

Yes.  Vista provides the vast majority of our services in the comfort of our client’s home.  We do this in line with best practice in our field,  which indicates that the client’s natural environment is the best location for training necessary life skills.