Understanding Autism with a Psychologist
Dr. Villesca specializes in the evaluation of ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, and emotional/behavioral disorders. She uses a cognitive-behavioral approach therapy, helping kids to understand how their thoughts affect their behavior. She applies evidence-based treatment strategies whenever possible when working with children and adolescents. She has been working with school districts in the Houston area, helping parents and teachers understand and implement behavioral management strategies at home and at school.
“DSM-5 came out in 2013 and the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has changed,” says Dr. Villesca. The criteria for evaluation of ASD now focuses on social communication disorder and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
Dr. Villesca says that the current estimate is that 1 in 68 children have an autism spectrum disorder, which is called so because the severity level in each child varies from mild to moderate and severe.
Level 1 (Requiring support,) Level 2 (Requiring substantial support,) and Level 3 (Requiring very substantial support.)
Is ASD different or similar to Asperger Syndrome? Asperger Syndrome exists as an informal part of the autism spectrum but differs in early development of language from classic autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. Compared with classic autism, children with Asperger Syndrome have IQs that fall in the normal to superior range.
Talking about ASD, Dr. Villesca says that the earlier it is diagnosed the better it is. There are therapists and child psychologists who are specially trained to help- speech therapy, social skills training, and parent training. Getting an Individual Education Plan (IEP) designed for children at school, is highly beneficial.
“Remember that you as a parent are the expert on your child. If you feel that something is not quite right but, you are not sure exactly what is going on, get a professional opinion from someone who has training and experience.”
“The first step is gathering more information and sharing your concerns with a trusted professional.”
Is there a factor that is responsible for Autism? “That is a million dollar question,” exclaims Dr. Villesca. ” It is a diverse topic. Some markers have been isolated about ASD, but there isn’t a complete picture yet.”
“The things that we know, that do not cause autism are parental upbringing, and definitely not vaccines, its proven time and again but some parents are still in doubt and rely on the outdated and completely incorrect assumptions about vaccines. ”
She points out that it is completely in the realm to have a normal pregnancy, have no family history, have a child typically developing till age two or three and then develop symptoms of autism.
“There are no cures of autism but there are good interventions, as we know from research, that help improve a child’s academic functioning, behavioral functioning, social and emotional functioning.”
Understanding Autism with a MoM
Every child is different and each case of ASD is unique. Below is an audio clip of my conversation with a mom who provides an insight into their journey (names are withheld for privacy reasons.)