Autism Lawyer in Los Angeles
The Basics of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Have Legal Questions? Ask Woodsmall Law Group
Autism is the name given to a range of neurological disorders that impact the way a person learns, behaves, and communicates with others.
As of 2018, autism was diagnosed in 1 in 59 children in the United States. It is four times as likely to occur in boys as it is girls. People with autism spectrum disorder can learn, think, feel, and problem-solve. Some of them will require help with daily living; some are intellectually disabled; some are extremely gifted. Their bodies react in a way that they cannot always control, and they are often aware of this. Their behaviors are often a direct result of their struggle to communicate with those around them.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed?
A child meets the criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) if he or she displays behaviors consistent with The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The official diagnosis must be made after comprehensive evaluations by a professional.
The child will have:
- Persistent defects in communication and social interaction. Some examples include failing to carry on normal back-and-forth conversations, failing to initiate or respond to social cues, unusual eye contact and body language, inability to use or understand gestures, total lack of facial expressions, absence of interest in other people, and more.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. This may include stereotyped or repetitive movement, use of objects, or speech; insistence on routines or ritualized behaviors; fixation on unusual objects; and over- or under-sensitivity to sensory stimulation like pain, temperature, lights, smells, and movement. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
To qualify, the symptoms must be present in the child’s early development, though they may not become apparent until the child is thrust into more social situations. The symptoms must cause a significant impairment in the child’s ability to function in a social environment or a job. Autism is not the same thing as an intellectual disability or developmental delay, but it frequently occurs in conjunction with such (this is called comorbidity). Epilepsy also develops in 20%-30% of children with ASD as they reach adulthood.
In former versions of the DSM, people on the autism spectrum were variously diagnosed with Asberger syndrome, pervasive development disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and autistic disorder. All of these diagnoses have been changed.
Getting Treatment, Education, and Advocacy
Early-intervention treatment services can help a child with ASD develop the skills to communicate and interact with the wider world. Most children can be diagnosed with certainty by age 2, and some as early as 18 months or younger. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children under 3 years old who show signs of developmental delays may be eligible for evaluation and services. California’s early intervention system offers help for children under 5.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the most commonly used therapy for children with autism. It is a skill-oriented training session that encourages positive actions and discourages negative ones. In addition, children may benefit from speech, occupational, and physical therapy. Doctor-prescribed medications may be used to treat the more troublesome symptoms of ASD, like self-injury behavior, as well as related conditions like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
With age and consistent treatment, a child’s ability to function in normal life with autism spectrum disorder can improve. Family counseling is another vital service that can help parents and siblings learn to live with and support a child with ASD. And, according to the Lanterman Act, children on the spectrum have the right to receive services and support from their local regional center, helping them live as normal a life as they choose. They also have the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), with assistance to accommodate any learning disability.
Why Our Team Knows We Can Help
Our founder, Mark Woodsmall, sits on the UCLA Center for Autism Research & Treatment Community Advisory Committee. He has been an active volunteer with Cure Autism Now/Autism Speaks; in fact, he served as the Chair of the Board of Autism Speaks – Southern California from 2008- 2015. During this term, Autism Speaks sponsored family support talks throughout Southern California, lobbied for the Autism Treatment Network at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and secured more than $900,000 in local grant funding for programs serving children and young adults on the spectrum.
Mark and his wife, Eva, who serves as a parent facilitator for the law firm, formed the Spero Project in 2014, a nonprofit that gives young adults with developmental disabilities on-the-job training.
Mark and Eva are parents of a child with nonverbal autism.
You Can Speak to a Special Education Attorney Today
Please visit our Parent Resources to learn about local support and advocacy groups for parents of children with autism for free. Our attorneys also drafted this free Advocacy Tool Kit for Autism Speaks. Woodsmall Law Group provides experienced, practical, and sophisticated legal representation for individuals with special needs. We advocate for educational and community access rights, and we collaborate with school districts, regional centers, and the courts to protect our clients.
We serve special needs children and their parents in Los Angeles County, focusing on the San Gabriel Valley. Please call (626) 440-0028 to schedule a free, initial consultation, where we will go over your child’s needs in full. We speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, and Spanish.