Autism Resources

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 59 children are on the autism spectrum.

What is being done to assist this growing population?

At Cape Abilities, we believe in the potential of each and every individual we serve, no matter what their challenges. We are committed to constantly creating a diverse array of opportunities that ensure that everyone can have meaningful involvement in the Cape Cod community and their local neighborhoods.  We accomplish this by providing appropriate supports tailored to individual needs that assist each person to meet personal goals for employment, participation in the community through their volunteerism and recreation and a host of other activities.

We currently support more than 90 individuals on the autism spectrum and this number continues to increase.  As a result, we have enhanced and expanded our clinical supports and also offer specialized staff training in this area so that we can provide programs that are suited to the needs of this population and ensure that everyone we serve can be successful in the pursuit of their individual interests and participate fully in the community.

Autism spectrum disorders have increased dramatically in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue.   In the next decade, more than 500,000 children with autism will reach adulthood – losing the services provided by schools up to age 22. This transition time, dubbed the “service cliff” by parents and professionals, can be extremely difficult for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

As we eagerly pursue the highest quality of services and supports for individuals and their families affected by autism spectrum disorder, we continue to invest in the professional training of our direct care staff to help them accommodate the talents of each individual they serve.

  • To help eliminate the “service cliff”, a grant from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has helped us initiate a Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program to provide disabled school age youth real life job experiences that will ease their transition from high school into adult services
  • 12 members of our direct care staff have received Registered Behavior Technician™ certification training to help them develop and implement targeted strategies designed to assist and meet the specific needs and goals of individuals on the autism spectrum
  • Our recent collaboration with Endicott College provided Master’s Degree-level training in Applied Behavior Analysis to qualified members of our direct car staff. This will help meet the critical need of assisting the growing number of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Cape Cod community

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In April of 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its biennial update of autism’s estimated prevalence among the nation’s children, based on an analysis of 2014 medical and/or school records of 8-year-olds from 11 monitoring sites across the United States. The report demonstrates that while progress has been made on some fronts, there is still critical work to do.Key findings include:

  • More children have been diagnosed with autism. 1 in 59 children had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 8 in 2014, a 15% increase over 2012.
  • The gender gap has narrowed slightly. While boys were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls (1 in 37 versus 1 in 151) in 2014, this gender gap narrowed compared to 2012, when boys were 4.5 times more frequently diagnosed than girls. This appears to reflect improved identification of autism in girls many of whom do not fit the stereotypical picture of autism seen in boys.
  • The ethnic gap for early diagnosis has narrowed but not nearly enough. While autism was still more likely to be diagnosed in white children than minority children, the ethnic gap is narrowing, particularly between black and white children. This appears to reflect increased awareness and screening in minority communities. However, the diagnosis of autism among Hispanic children still lagged significantly behind that of non-Hispanic children.
  • Disappointingly, the report found no decrease in the age when autism is typically diagnosed. In 2014, most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2. Earlier diagnosis is crucial because early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the life span.
  • Significant differences remain in the frequency of autism diagnosis between the CDC’s monitoring sites. These ranged from a low of 1 in 77 children in Arkansas to a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey. This likely reflects state and regional differences in children’s access to autism screening as well as differences in the CDC’s access to the school and medical records that its researchers use to estimate prevalence. As such, the new national numbers almost certainly reflect a persistent undercount of autism’s true prevalence among the nation’s children.

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Click on the link below to hear a special segment of Cape Cod Broadcasting’s Sunday Journal public service program, which originally aired in 2015 and focused on ALEC training for first responders when assisting families with special needs children.

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Resources:  For Everyone

Below find some helpful links for support Services:

Support:  For the Care Giver

Q: How do you take a break?

A (everyone): Hiking, pets, yoga, dogs, walking, meditating, social life, date night, paint/art night (*something this group should explore together!), volunteering, religion/spiritual life, courses, entertainment, exercise. Note: People in the room has various challenges for caring for their loved ones while they take care of themselves. Ideas shared and more to come.

Q: How do you exercise your emotions?

A: Journaling, connect with others, self nurture, saying NO (don’t stretch yourself too thin).

Q: Who is your circle of support?

A: Friends, others “who get it”, family, counselors, church family, school, doctors and nurses (*look at wellness services through your insurance)

Supports can be challenging, expensive and even unsafe. As someone pointed out,  it’s not like we can ask the neighbors kids down the street to come over and babysit. Our children, and adult children, often need specialized care. This is a very important issue that needs to be discussed with, and championed by, providers and legislators.

Thought on ‘Change’: Especially with the holidays, any change in routine can be daunting. Sometimes we over compensate by giving 200% of our time and efforts to make things perfect because our kids or family members deserve it. Then reeling it back in can be challenging. “We always do this at Christmas”, “You always decorate the tree this way”, “We always go to (fill in the blank) this time of year”.  Suggestions include:

  • Practice Spontaneous Activities with explanations and assurances. In some ways it may even be a bit more like “planned” spontaneous events.
  • Practice saying “no” by acknowledging how your loved one feels but hold the line on your decision.
  • Present new ideas in their terms. Be patient and let them know things will be ok…and hold the line.
  • Over time, the old routines will be less of an issue and you are teaching coping skills to your loved ones.

Technology

Some of the steps Cape Abilities is currently taking to provide augmented services to participants in our Life Skills programs include hi tech/low tech applications such as:

  • Apps – for our Touch Screen technology  consists of Art, Menu Planning, Hygiene, Basic Budget, and some FUN!
  • Smartboards – for individual and group participation, promoting interactive learning
  • iPads – to put the power of technology into individual hands
  • Group board games
  • Light boards for sensory learning