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Autism spectrum disorders, also referred to as ASD, are a group of developmental disabilities, affecting around one in 88 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to rising numbers, there has been a significant increase in the need for increased health and education services for people with autism and developmental disabilities, according to a study published in the 2011 issue of the journal "Pediatrics". ASD support workers help make a positive contribution to the lives of children with autism and their families.
Difficulties with communication is one of the hallmarks of autism spectrum disorders. Helping clients improve their communication skills is a key responsibility of an ASD worker. They assist speech-language pathologists and psychologists with implementing treatment plans to help their clients achieve milestones in communication. They might monitor clients in a developmental disabilities or classroom setting to help determine specific deficits in communication skills, interact with clients and provide one-on-one support.
In addition to communication difficulties, people with autism also usually have specific social skills deficits. For example, they might not understand the dynamics of social interactions such as boundaries and limits, cooperation, turn-taking, game playing or how to make friends. ASD support workers teach social skills and try to improve those that already exist. They might lead educational groups to teach their clients about the importance of social skills, educate parents and loved ones about methods and techniques they can use to improve social interactions or work directly with clients to demonstrate acceptable social behaviors.
Another feature of autism can be a lack of interest in personal care. Many people with autism have deficits in the area of maintaining personal hygiene, such as showering, bathing, tooth brushing and choosing appropriate clothing. Depending on the work setting, some of the duties in this area that an ASD worker might perform include teaching the basics of personal care, modeling appropriate personal hygiene routines or providing direct assistance to clients who are unable to perform specific personal hygiene activities on their own.
In addition to direct contact with clients, ASD support workers must often perform administrative tasks, such as completing paperwork or making phone calls to families or outside support professionals. They might also be involved in activities like making educational materials, such as games or visual supports, to use when teaching their clients. ASD support workers generally must document their interactions with clients in case files and update case notes detailing a client's progress toward specific treatment plan goals.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs): Data and Statistics
- Pediatrics: Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in US Children, 1997–2008
- The National Autistic Society: Social Skills
- University of Alaska Anchorage: The Human Services Worker: A Generic Job Description
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.