AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER MARY CARTER UNDERSTANDING AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD) • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a range of

AUTISM SPECTRUM
DISORDER
MARY CARTER

UNDERSTANDING AUTISM SPECTRUM
DISORDER (ASD)
• Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a range of neurodevelopmental disorders

marked by difficulties in social interaction, communication challenges, and a tendency for
restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

• Spectrum Nature: Emphasizes the variability in the severity and combination of symptoms
among individuals, making ASD a highly individualized condition.

• Life-Long Impact: ASD begins in early childhood and significantly influences an individual’s
social interactions, educational paths, and vocational opportunities as they mature into
adulthood.

• Importance of Awareness: The broad range of ASD manifestations necessitates increased
awareness and understanding to tailor support effectively (American Psychiatric
Association, 2013).

CORE FEATURES OF ASD

• Communication Impairments: Persistent difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal
communication that affect the ability to interact socially and form relationships.

• Restricted Interests and Repetitive Behaviors: Involves narrow, obsessive interests and
repetitive actions or rituals that the individual feels compelled to perform.

• Sensory Sensitivities: Many individuals with ASD exhibit heightened or reduced
sensitivities to sensory input, such as sounds, lights, textures, or temperatures.

• Developmental Timeline: Symptoms must be present from an early developmental stage
but might not fully emerge until social demands surpass the individual’s coping
mechanisms (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

CHALLENGES IN DIAGNOSING ASD

• Diagnostic Complexity: The wide variation in symptoms and co-occurring
conditions like intellectual disability or language impairment complicate diagnosis
and intervention strategies.

• Tailored Support: The diverse presentation of ASD symptoms requires a
personalized approach to support, emphasizing the need for a broad range of
diagnostic tools and interventions (Lord et al., 2018).

ETIOLOGY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY
INTERVENTION

• Genetic and Environmental Factors: Current research suggests ASD results from
a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental influences.

• Early Diagnosis: Critical for implementing early interventions, which are shown to
significantly improve outcomes.

• Role of Educators and Healthcare Providers: Early diagnosis and intervention
hinge on the awareness and understanding of ASD symptoms by parents,
educators, and healthcare professionals (Lyall et al., 2017).

GAPS IN CURRENT ASD PROGRAMMING

• Focus on Early Intervention: Most existing ASD programs concentrate on children
and adolescents, leaving adults with ASD lacking necessary long-term support.

• Service Shortfalls: Adults with ASD often struggle to find support in key areas
such as employment, higher education, independent living, and social
connectivity (Kim, 2019).

EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL SKILLS TRAINING
NEEDS

• Employment Challenges: Adults with ASD face higher rates of unemployment and
underemployment due to inadequate support for overcoming social and
communication difficulties.

• Vocational Training Gaps: Existing vocational and career assistance programs
often fail to address the unique challenges faced by adults with ASD.

• Social Skills Deficiencies: Limited availability of social skills training programs for
adults with ASD contributes to social isolation and diminished quality of life (Kim,
2019).

THE NEED FOR COMPREHENSIVE MENTAL
HEALTH SUPPORT

• Elevated Risk: Adults with ASD are at an increased risk for mental health issues
such as anxiety and depression, highlighting the need for accessible mental
health services.

• Lack of Integrated Services: Many ASD programs lack comprehensive mental
health support, leaving a significant gap in care for adults with ASD.

INTRODUCING SPECTRUM SUPPORT
SERVICES (SSS)

• Program Overview: “Spectrum Support Services” (SSS) is a comprehensive,
multidimensional program designed to meet the diverse needs of adults with
ASD, integrating vocational training, social skills enhancement, independent living
support, and mental health care.

• Evidence-Based Approach: SSS combines the latest research findings and
evidence-based practices to offer tailored support aimed at improving quality of
life for adults with ASD.

KEY COMPONENTS OF THE SSS PROGRAM

• Vocational Training and Employment Support: Incorporating the Supported Employment model
to provide job coaching and career assistance tailored to the unique needs of adults with ASD
(Bond et al., 2022).

• Social Skills Development: Implementing the PEERS® for Young Adults program, proven to
enhance social interaction and functionality in adults with ASD through structured training and
interactive sessions (Zheng et al., 2021).

• Independent Living Skills: Offering a curriculum focused on essential life skills like personal
finance, meal preparation, and public transportation navigation, based on best practices in
experiential learning (Morris, 2020).

• Integrated Mental Health Support: Providing a comprehensive mental health support system,
including individual counseling and therapy sessions centered around CBT and MBSR
techniques (Beck et al., 2020).

IMPLEMENTATION AND PARTICIPANT
ENGAGEMENT

• Individualized Assessments: Initiating the program with thorough assessments to
identify each participant’s needs, strengths, and goals.

• Peer Mentoring: Facilitating peer mentoring to foster an inclusive community
where participants can share experiences and strategies.

• Community and Family Involvement: Engaging participants’ families and the
wider community through workshops and awareness campaigns to build
supportive networks.

LEGAL AND ETHICAL FRAMEWORK

• Data Protection and Privacy: Adhering to HIPAA regulations and state laws to
protect sensitive participant information and ensure confidentiality.

• ADA Compliance: Ensuring reasonable accommodations for participants with
ASD in employment and public services, following the Americans with Disabilities
Act guidelines.

• Ethical Program Delivery: Emphasizing informed consent, respect for autonomy,
and equitable access to the program, ensuring that interventions are both
beneficial and devoid of harm (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,
2022; U.S. Department of Justice, n.d.).

REFLECTION AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS

• The Need for Holistic Support: Acknowledging the necessity of addressing
vocational, social, independent living, and mental health needs simultaneously to
improve the quality of life for adults with ASD.

• Emphasis on Empowerment: Advocating for programs that empower adults with
ASD to actively participate in decision-making and service design.

• Expanding Accessibility: Exploring digital platforms as a means to extend the
reach of support services and researching long-term impacts and effectiveness of
such interventions.

REFERENCES

• American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

• Beck, K. B., Greco, C. M., Terhorst, L. A., Skidmore, E. R., Kulzer, J. L., & McCue, M. P. (2020). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for adults with autism spectrum disorder: Feasibility and estimated effects. Mindfulness, 11, 1286-1297.

• Bond, G. R., & Mueser, K. T. (2022). Supported employment. In Textbook of Community Psychiatry: American Association for Community Psychiatry (pp. 513-524). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

• Kim, S. Y. (2019). The experiences of adults with autism spectrum disorder: Self-determination and quality of life. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 60, 1-15.

• Laugeson, E. A., Gantman, A., Kapp, S. K., Orenski, K., & Ellingsen, R. (2015). A randomized controlled trial to improve social skills in young adults with autism spectrum disorder: The UCLA PEERS® program. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 45, 3978-
3989.

• Lord, C., Elsabbagh, M., Baird, G., & Veenstra-Vanderweele, J. (2018). Autism spectrum disorder. Lancet (London, England), 392(10146), 508–520.

• Lyall, K., Croen, L., Daniels, J., Fallin, M. D., Ladd-Acosta, C., Lee, B. K., … & Windham, G. C. (2017). The changing epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders. Annual Review of Public Health, 38, 81-102.

• Morris, T. H. (2020). Experiential learning–a systematic review and revision of Kolb’s model. Interactive learning environments, 28(8), 1064-1077.

• Siu, A. M., Lin, Z., & Chung, J. (2019). An evaluation of the TEACCH approach for teaching functional skills to adults with autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities. Research in developmental disabilities, 90, 14-21.

• Smith, L. E., Maenner, M. J., & Seltzer, M. M. (2012). Developmental trajectories in adolescents and adults with autism: The case of daily living skills. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(6), 622-631.

• Spek, A. A., van Ham, N. C., & Nyklíček, I. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy in adults with an autism spectrum disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(1), 246-253.

• U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2022). Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

• U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d). ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual.

• Wehman, P., Schall, C. M., Carr, S., Targett, P., West, M., & Cifu, G. (2014). Employment outcomes for young adults with autism spectrum disorders: A secondary analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2. Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders, 44(1), 276-286.

• Zheng, S., Kim, H., Salzman, E., Ankenman, K., & Bent, S. (2021). Improving social knowledge and skills among adolescents with autism: systematic review and meta-analysis of UCLA PEERS® for adolescents. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1

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