Optimum Behavioral Health

Pathology and Identifying Problems

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental, neurological disorder that causes severe impairments in the areas of language development, communication, and social interaction. Autism is usually observable at around age two and a half. However, recent research has identified symptom presentation and subsequent diagnosis as early as 18 months. The autistic child will suffer from various fundamental impairments, including a disruption in or lack of language, social and interpersonal withdrawal, and unusual interests that are often stereotypical and repetitive. Moreover, the majority of children with autism function cognitively in the range of mental retardation, and only about 25% of these children score within the normal range on standardized measures of intelligence. Such cognitive deficits coupled with impairments in attention and compliance often require one-on-one assistance or, at the very least, a setting

that affords a low student to teacher ratio. As such, these challenges often restrict such children from learning through the traditional education system.

Symptoms of Autism

The degree of Autism in children varies greatly and symptoms of Autism can range from mild to severe. The more severely affected child may be obsessed with inanimate objects and is commonly drawn to solitary, rigid behavior with little to no social interaction. These young children may become aggressive to themselves and others when there is even a slight change in routine. It is not uncommon for these children to display tantrum-like behavior when attempts are made to disengage them from compulsive actions, such as lining up toy cars or incessantly twirling a piece of string.

Other self-stimulatory behaviors include, but are not limited to: hand flapping, rocking, tapping on self or objects, and waving objects in front of their faces. This behavior is thought to stem from the children’s cognitive inability to make sense of their surroundings and understand another’s emotions or feelings. Autistic children seek to escape confusion by simplifying experiences in the environment: “They have an inability to make believe, which rests upon a fear that the world is ultimately chaotic, and their efforts to understand human interactions are met with frustration and futility” (Brown, 1999, p. 62).

Mental Illness (Anxiety, Depression, Mood Disorders, OCD)

Mental illness, or psychological disturbance, can manifest itself in a variety of forms, and symptom presentation will differ according to the particular diagnosis. Typically, mental illness is thought of as a psychological or behavioral pattern that occurs in an individual that causes significant distress, impaired functioning, or disability. Its presentation or manifestation is a substantial departure of what is expected during the course of normal developmental progression.

Mental illness can affect a person’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social, and interpersonal life. It is not uncommon for individuals experiencing abnormalities in one or more of these areas to have difficulty in navigating everyday situations, maintaining relationships or employment, or caring for themselves or others.

OBH primarily utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach to understanding and treating a variety of mental health diagnoses and disorders. We seek to identify the source of maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and/or perspectives that lead an individual to experience life differently and help them to adapt in order to function more positively in the environment. This is conducted in a goal-oriented, systematic way as to preserve the person’s individuality, while facilitating them in reaching their full potential. Symptom reduction and an increased quality of life are often foundational goals that are continually processed and analyzed within a supportive, nurturing therapeutic environment.

Professional Services Offered

Assessment/Evaluation (Psychological & Developmental)

Comprehensive psychological and developmental evaluation services are offered for both child and adult populations. Procedures include establishing a diagnosis to guide treatment, obtaining a differential diagnosis, or clarifying and assessing “at-risk” behavior. Accurate diagnostic assessment allows the client and professional to access appropriate community resources, as well as to clarify functional areas in need of remediation.

Functional Behavior Assessment

Dysfunctional behaviors that result in negative consequences for the individual and those around them need to be identified and fully understood before treatment interventions are applied. Functional Behavior Assessment is a systematic, scientific method for assessing the function of the behavior and often times, identifying and teaching a more pro-social replacement behavior that has a similar function or result on the environment. The behavior analyst collects a variety of formal and informal data concerning frequency, duration, contingency, as well as antecedents and consequences of the behavior in question. Commonly, the result of such assessment leads to the implementation of both proactive and reactive techniques and strategies to appropriately address and treat the behavioral problem.

Autism Intensive Behavior Intervention Programming

Research indicates that the earlier intervention/treatment is applied to individuals with developmental disabilities, the better the associated long-term prognosis will be. OBH provides in-home early intervention programming for children and toddlers that are either “at-risk” or already have an established diagnostic label of Autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). This service provides the child with highly trained, home-based therapists who work with the child in a one-on-one setting on a variety of functional, educational, and behavioral goals.

Such programming seeks to address:

  • Cognitive Development

  • Self-Help/Adaptive Functioning/Daily Living

  • Play Skills & Socialization

  • Emotional Development

  • Motor Skills

  • Speech/Language & Communication Skills

  • Behavioral Excess (Tantrums, Aggression, Non-Compliance)

Each functional domain is assessed prior to implementation of the therapy so that both individualized short and long-term goals can be formulated. The child’s progress in therapy is continually tracked, monitored, analyzed, and adapted when necessary to ensure the child is achieving his/her full developmental potential.

Individual, Family, & Group Psychotherapy

Therapeutic services are offered in a variety of contexts depending on the particular need of the client. Often times a client may find it helpful to associate with other individuals whom are experiencing similar life challenges in a group therapy setting. Other times, the client may feel more comfortable being seen in a personal, one-on-one situation with the therapist. Family sessions can also help members connect on new levels and strengthen relationships in a safe and nurturing environment. Psychotherapy assists the client in emotional growth and fosters effective personal problem solving skills.

Parent Training/Consultation

Parent training services teach an alternative way of perceiving and responding to a child through the appropriate choice of effective interventions. Through instruction, education, and modeling, parents work in conjunction with the professional to more clearly understand the origins of behavior and address it in more effective ways. There are significant benefits to ensuring that immediate family members are trained in these management techniques so that behaviors are responded to consistently and deliberately.

If you are interested in receiving psychological or developmental services, or have questions about the treatment methodology or services provided by OBH, please call us at 619-297-4300.

619-297-4300