An estimated one in 10 children is diagnosed with autism – the majority of them boys – and the numbers are increasing. USU special education professor Tom Higbee, who is considered to be an expert on autism spectrum disorders, said there are no two cases alike and they vary in severity. However, most people with autism have social, communication and behavioral challenges.Higbee is director of the Autism Assert Program at USU where 10 children, between 3 and 5 years of age, and their families are involved.”Our goal with these families is to, first of all, do detailed assessments and evaluations with the kids to find out exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are. That’s important to understand that people with autism have many strengths as well as weaknesses,” Higbee said. “So the first thing we’ll try and to is find out what those strengths are so that we can capitalize on them and also identify the areas of weakness or concerns so we can do intensive direct teaching to help address those needs.”The children come five days a week, four hours a day and after two years are usually able to enter regular kindergarten classes.Higbee said at this time, neither a cause nor a cure have been found for autism spectrum disorders, but he said it helps a great deal to receive professional help.
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