Autism Evaluations with Dr. Morris
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental condition that affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autistic individuals can also display unusually restricted/repetitive behaviors and interests, need for sameness, and atypical sensory processing. It is typical for parents to seek some form of assessment and intervention for their child once an educator, health care provider, other professional, or even a relative or friend, has alerted them to the existence of autism spectrum conditions. According to the CDC, early intervention is better for long-term outcomes and it is highly recommended that parents seek some form of assistance/intervention when parenting a neuro diverse individual. Additional assistance/interventions and resources are typically needed to ensure positive outcomes.
Dr. Morris is well-informed of the controversies that are connected with this diagnosis. Initially, autism was thought to be a rare and severe form of schizophrenia. In 1980, autism was reformulated as a developmental disorder rather than a mental illness. The diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) in 1994 and considered a separate condition. People with Asperger’s were thought to have high IQs and strong verbal skills but struggled with social skills, displayed narrow interests, and repetitive behaviors. In 2013, this diagnosis was absorbed by the broader conceptualization of “autism spectrum disorder” along with other 4 outdated autism diagnoses, causing controversy among those who either identified with Asperger’s or had children who were represented by this condition. To this day, there are disagreements among parents, self-advocates, and practitioners about what constitutes autism and how it should be characterized. ASD encompasses a large range of people, some of whom are severely intellectually challenged, and others who are exceptionally accomplished. Although there are those who see ASD as a disease or deficit, others view it as a difference that should be embraced as a meaningful component of a person’s identity, defining the ways in which an individual experiences and understands the world around them. Dr. Morris approaches each individual according to their unique presentation to create a profile of strengths and weaknesses.
In terms of treatment, parents may encounter many differences of opinion as to whether or not applied behavior analysis (ABA) is superior to developmental therapies such as Floor time or Play Therapy. It should be pointed out that ABA has been extensively researched and has been shown to be an evidence-based practice. Additionally, the field of ABA has changed greatly since this approach gained traction in the later 1960s with the development of the Lovaas method. However, some self-advocates and parents feel that it “makes children into little robots” by ignoring children’s individuality and trying to extinguish autistic traits that may be considered part of a person’s identity. There are many myths surrounding ABA and its methodologies, including: 1) ABA is an experimental treatment, and not scientifically demonstrated to be effective 2) ABA just uses food and toys to bribe kids into doing things, and 3) ABA is focused on punishment. A board certified behavior analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in NY, Dr. Morris can advise parents on what ABA can and cannot do within the context of their child’s unique profile.
Evaluating adults for ASD can prove especially challenging, as autistic adults present differently than children. Research suggests that this may be due to the development of camouflaging or coping strategies that high functioning autistic adults use in social situations. Recent research also has proposed that the use of these strategies can explain missed or late diagnosis of ASD in girls and women. Dr. Morris has worked with young women who use explicit techniques to appear socially competent, such as mimicking other socially successful individuals in order to give the impression that they too are socially successful. Camouflaging has been reported as extremely effortful and challenging by autistic individuals; It has been suggested that women who receive an ASD diagnosis later on in life may have spent years feeling different, attempting to minimize this difference and hiding their identities, while possibly contributing to an increased expression of internalizing problems, such as anxiety and depression. Dr. Morris has assembled a specific set of instruments and assessment techniques tailored to the evaluation of ASD characteristics in adults, including camouflaging.
Here in Connecticut, it is often difficult for families and individuals to get a timely evaluation in order to begin interventions or life changes as soon as possible. Dr. Morris does not have a waiting list (most evaluators in CT have wait times of 6-12 months and beyond) and she is also a vetted Medicaid provider in CT. The office accepts this insurance for individuals aged 2 to 21. All others must self-pay and, if seeking reimbursement, individuals and parents must do so on their own, as Dr. Morris is not paneled with insurance providers other than CT Medicaid for ages 2 to 21. Although Dr. Morris has evaluated individuals of all ages, preschoolers and adults are the two age groups that Dr. Morris has a special interest in.