Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. ASD is diagnosed according to guidelines listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary from one child to the next, but these children typically have difficulties in three areas: social impairments (e.g., lack of interest in peer relationships, impaired non-verbal behavior), communication difficulties (e.g., delayed speech, repetitive language), and stereotyped behaviors or restricted interest (e.g., hand flapping, preoccupied interest). The NIMH provides a guide for parents on understanding autism that is helpful for understanding the disorder and its treatment.
Tips on Seeking a Diagnosis
The following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation or referral for a psychological evaluation:
While there's no proven cure yet for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), treating ASD early, can greatly reduce symptoms and increase your child's ability to grow and learn new skills. According to the NIMH, research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy during the toddler or preschool years can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with ASD. There is no single best treatment for all children with ASD, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted common features of effective early intervention programs.
These may include:
• Starting as soon as a child has been diagnosed with ASD
• Having small classes to allow each child to have one-on-one time with the therapist or teacher and small group learning activities
• Encouraging activities that include typically developing children, as long as such activities help meet a specific learning goal
• Providing a high degree of structure, routine, and visual cues, such as posted activity schedules and clearly defined boundaries, to reduce distractions
• Guiding the child in adapting learned skills to new situations and settings and maintaining learned skills
• Social skills, such as joint attention (looking at other people to draw attention to something interesting and share in experiencing it)
• Self-help and daily living skills, such as dressing and grooming
• Cognitive skills, such as pretend play or seeing someone else's point of view
A version of this post was authored by Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D. for Psychology Today.
Since the pandemic last year, stress levels across America have continued to increase. Many families may be experiencing increased stress due to working from home, serving as their kids’ teacher, employment loss, or stress due to significant life changes as a result of COVID-19. High levels of stress for an extended period of time can lead to psychological burnout.
Tips for Reducing Parental Burnout
We all experience stress in our lives at some point. However, for some, engaging in healthy coping strategies can help to reduce burnout. Below are five evidence-based self-care suggestions:
A version of this post was co-authored by Jasmin S. Searcy-Pate, Ph.D. and Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D. for Psychology Today.
Resilience is the ability to overcome difficulties and adapt to changes in life. For example, many Black kids and their families may have experienced difficulties related to COVID-19 but they have been able to maintain their emotional and psychological health despite these difficulties. Several different types of resilience have been described including psychological, emotional, and community.
Black History Month and Resilience
Black History Month is an important moment to celebrate the legacy and contributions of Black people to society. Some scholars  have described how Black history knowledge (BHK) helps “foster psychological liberation - healthy functioning characterized by a conceptual shift from a narrative rooted only in oppression to a narrative that acknowledges the strengths, accomplishments, and creativity of Black people throughout their history”. Furthermore, BHK can provide Black youth with knowledge of the historical experiences of Black people in America to provide them with a healthier identity and it can help promote resilience .
6 Ways to Build Resilience in Black Youth
Although being resilient doesn’t prevent children and teens from experiencing emotional difficulties in the face of negative life events. Research demonstrates that resilience helps to reduce risk and promote healthy development. Below are a few tips from the American Psychological Association.
Written by Erlanger “Earl” Turner, Ph.D.
 Chapman-Hilliard, C., & Adams-Bass, V. (2016). A conceptual framework for utilizing Black history knowledge as a path to psychological liberation for Black youth. Journal of Black Psychology, 42(6), 479-507.
Note: This blog was previously published for Psychology Today
This blog is maintained by Therapy for Black Kids.