Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder both refer to the complex disorder of neural brain development and is characterized by problems in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors or interests and unusual sensory sensitivities. Previously there were distinct subtypes: autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder NOS and Asperger’s Disorder, but now with the 2013 publication of the DSM-5, these subtypes are all subsumed under one diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although the roots of autism are in very early brain development, affected by genetic and environmental factors, the symptoms of autism are often first seen between 2 and 3 years of age. Early diagnosis through psychological testing and early intervention mostly through ABA behavioral therapy, as early as 18 months to 2 ½ years, are a key to successful therapy for autistic children. Your child needs a comprehensive assessment with tests specifically designed to evaluate for ASD, and without such an assessment, the diagnosis of your child could be based on a mere screening. Your child may also need a referral for physical, genetic, hearing, lead exposure tests, etc.
The symptoms of autism are: difficulty with nonverbal behaviors, such as eye contact, gestures and pointing, difficulty interacting or reciprocating with others, problem conversing or showing socially appropriate language, not developing or maintaining friendships, showing repetitive motor movements or engaging in repetitive interests, being inflexible to routines or demanding sameness, and having unusual sensory interests. The parents should feel supported and together with a licensed psychologist develop a plan of action to help their child. Besides behavioral therapy, the autistic child can be referred for bio-medical interventions, nutritional consult, speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy and other necessary services.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find that 1 in 88 American children are on the autism-spectrum. Boys are four to five times more prone to have autism than girls. That is approximately one out of 54 American boys is diagnosed with autism. These statistics call for action. Children with autism are lovingly attached to their parents, but do not know how to interact appropriately, follow instructions or how to develop necessary skills. Applied Behavioral Analysis remains the most effective behavioral therapy for autistic individuals. Dr. Levi can help you find a reliable agency that provides that service funded by the school, your insurance or the Regional Center in CA. ASD can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties with attention and hyperactivity, and a licensed psychologist, like Dr. Levi, conducts psychological testing to assess for those associated conditions. The psychologist examines whether other developmental or behavioral issues are present.
The measures Dr. Levi and most experts in the field recommend are: semi-structured observational measure ADOS-2, comprehensive parental interview using ADI-R, as well as GARS-2. Along with above measures, children’s intelligence should be measured with WPPSI-IV, WISC-V, and MSEL, tests with measures of communication like PPVT-4, measures of adaptive functioning, including communication, social and daily living skills, like ABAS-3 and Vineland-3. The psychologist guides parents and children with warmth and compassion through the process of psychological testing. The psychologist provides the family with many resources, referrals and parenting training along with the basics of behavioral therapy for autistic children.
Having a minor in Health Psychology allowed Dr. Levi to also learn about bio-medical and nutritional factors affecting children with autism. The child’s medical practitioner specializing in autism can do the bio-medical treatments. Dr. Levi can help you find out how to make basic improvements to nutrition, food sensitivities, GFCF Diet, Vitamin/Mineral Supplements, High-Dose Vitamin B6 and Magnesium, Essential Fatty Acids, Gut Treatments focusing on Antifungals, Pro-biotics, Digestive Enzymes, Amino Acids, Glutathione, and other Immune System Regulation.
As a licensed psychologist in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County, and an expert in assessing for autism, Dr. Levi has been conducting psychological testing for ASD for 16 years privately and at NLACRC with tests that are research-proven in the psychology field. Dr. Levi has a personal experience raising her 16-year-old daughter with autism. She provides parenting skill sessions to assist parents in learning how to best interact and develop their autistic child.