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Social Media’s Effect on Self-Esteem

We live in a world that is inundated with social media. It has grown tremendously over the past decade. It pervades every corner of our society. Everywhere you look there is another social media website popping up: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. People are constantly engrossed in their electronic devices: phones, tablets and laptops.

There are positive aspects of social media, such as keeping in touch with friends and family, especially ones who might live far away. There are also some negative aspects that we should be aware of. Many people are starting to ask the question, “What are some of the psychological long term effects of social media on one’s self-esteem”? Social media can breed insecurity when we are using it as a platform to compare ourselves to other friends or even friends of friends.

Using social media to determine your self worth by obsessively comparing yourself to someone’s perfect Facebook photo or constantly reading their exciting posts can actually be detrimental to your mental health. A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from “Facebook envy”. They found that those who abstained from using the popular site reported that they felt more satisfied with their lives.

Social media is designed to exhibit only the best moments of one’s life. People post pictures of happy moments with their romantic partner, selfies of a perfectly toned bikini body, and family snapshots in tropical locations such as Tahiti or the Maldives. The truth is we don’t know anything about what lies beneath the surface of that photograph. The actual reality of that moment that was captured in time may have been nothing like what it appears like in the photograph. Who knows, what looks to be the world’s happiest couple may have been arguing minutes before the photograph was taken. We do not know what is really happening in their lives. We only see the picture that they have painted for us. In her article, The Negative Effect of Social Media on Self-Esteem, Alyssa Mairanz speaks to this when she says, “As you are scrolling through your news feed and it is one post after the next of all these exciting things, it is easy to start feeling badly about yourself”.

Mairanz offers tips for not letting social media negatively affect your self-esteem.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. According to Mairanz, “It’s a very dangerous game when you start such comparisons. This especially applies to social media: what someone chooses to show on these sites is not reflective of a true reality”.
  2. Change your mindset. Don’t use social media as a tool to measure your self-worth. Your value is intrinsic and it cannot be determined by comparing superficial things.
  3. Limit the amount of time that you spend on social media sites. This tip comes from Anna Zhukova, author of “7 Negative Effects of Social Media On People and Users”. The recommended amount of time you should spend on social networks is no more than half an hour per day.

It’s important to be aware of what you are using these social media sites for and the amount of time you are spending on them. Remember to monitor your screen time, as well as your feelings after using the site. Try not to get too engrossed in the world of social media competition!

Depression in Later Life

Are you in your mid-50’s or 60’s? Are there areas of your life where you don’t feel entirely satisfied? Perhaps you’ve had dreams or hopes that have been pushed aside because of raising children, trying to keep a marriage together, or working hard to build your retirement. Life forces us to make choices, and sometimes hard ones. For those in later adulthood, depression can sink in when children have left the nest, a marriage falls apart, an illness gets worse, or a career didn’t go the way we planned.

In fact, depression is one of the most common disabilities in the United States. Depression affects approximately 15 million American adults, which is equivalent to about 6.7% of the US population age 18 and older.

If you are suffering from depression in later adulthood, there is treatment that can help. In fact, for most people, treatment has been proven to be effective. Generally speaking, treatment can include therapy, and in some cases, may also include the use of antidepressants. It’s important that a person try to avoid using only medication. While antidepressants are useful, they don’t address the full scope of the illness. Antidepressants can help with minimizing symptoms so that a person can go on with their lives. However, only therapy can help a person address the issues that may have contributed to the depression in the first place. Together, medication and therapy are an effective way of overcoming depression. In many cases, therapy alone can address the symptoms as well as the underlying causes of depression.

According to the New York Times, the use of antidepressants has increased significantly among Americans. “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.” It is unclear whether this increase is due to more legitimate diagnoses of depression or a pattern of over-diagnosis.

In addition to therapy and medication, a person might also include holistic modalities in their efforts to overcome depression. These might include:

  • use herbs and supplements (such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP)
  • increase exposure to sunlight which increases Vitamin D and one’s mood
  • avoid caffeine which reduces serotonin levels
  • eat foods that enhance serotonin (such as coconut oil, avocados, and fish)
  • meditate or practice yoga
  • stay active with a regular exercise program
  • explore whether there is a hormonal imbalance causing the depression
  • eat regularly (this balances blood sugar and prevents mood swings)
  • explore whether there is a circumstantial contributor to the depression, such as the death of a loved one

Although depression is common among Americans, there are many ways to overcome depression. If you’re experiencing depression, Ventura Community Counseling can help.

Good Sleep Supports Mental Health

When you’re able to get a good night’s sleep, you feel better – emotionally, psychologically, and physically. However, unfortunately, many people suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders that prevent good sleep. Yet, this in turn, contributes to mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thinking.  A University of Michigan study found a strong correlation between insomnia and suicide.

Here are a few tips on how to get a good night’s sleep and support your mental health:

  • Maintain a healthy sleep hygiene.  Just like you might brush your teeth every day, shower, and wash your face to support cleanliness and physical hygiene, a regular sleep hygiene can also be supportive. Use this link to discover ways to create a sleep hygiene for yourself.
  • Study the connection between mental illness and lack of sleep. If you already suffer from depression or anxiety, explore the ways that lack of sleep may be both contributing to your mental illness and causing it. With more information about your particular illness and its relationship to sleep, you might empower yourself to make better decisions that support your psychological health.
  • Talk to a professional about your mental illness. If you’re experiencing symptoms of psychological illness, it’s important to involve a mental health professional who can develop a plan for treating your illness, guide you toward greater health, and support you through the challenges of experiencing symptoms. Ventura Community Counseling is a low-cost counseling center, making mental health services more affordable so that you don’t neglect an essential part of your wellbeing.

Kleptomania

What is Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is considered to be a type of Impulse Control Disorder in which an individual has the urge to steal items. However, they steal items that have such little value or that they don’t even need. In fact, in many occasions the individual will steal the item, put it away, and never use it. Furthermore, such condition is rare, it is important to note that it is a serious mental health disorder and that about two thirds of Kleptomania cases involve women. Even though individuals may try their best to not engage in such behaviors, it is something that they cannot control. The individual cannot control the temptation to steal, which in turn can emotionally affect not only the individual, but their loved ones.

In addition, such behaviors and actions occur without planning them and occasionally, without the help of others. Such behaviors tend to occur in public places (i.e. stores) however, individuals may also steal from their loved ones.

What are the symptoms of Kleptomania?

  • An individual cannot resist the powerful urges to steal items that they do not need
  • An individual begins to feel tension, anxiety, or arousal that may in turn lead to theft
  • After stealing, the individual may feel pleasure, relief, or a sense of accomplishment
  • An individual begins to have a fear of getting arrested
  • An individual expresses feeling of shame, guilt, or remorse
  • An individual returns to the urges

What causes Kleptomania?

Although the exact known cause is not known, the following are thought to be contributing factors to the development of such condition:

  • Problems with naturally occurring chemicals known as serotonin
    • Serotonin helps regulate an individuals’ mood and emotions
  • Existing Addictive Disorders
  • The brain’s opioid system
    • Such urges are regulated by this system
  • Family history
    • If an individual has a first degree relative (i.e. parent or sibling), the individual is more likely to develop the condition. In addition, if such individuals or their relatives have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Alcohol, or any other substance abuse disorder, then the individual is also at higher risk.
  • Comorbidity with other mental illnesses (i.e. Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorder, or Anxiety Disorders)

How is Kleptomania treated?

Although individuals do not tend to seek help because of humiliation or shame for example, it is important for them to seek help from a professional to overcome such disorder. They will not do it on their own. However, when treatment is sought, the following may be used:

  • Medications
    • Although there has not been an approved medication to treat such condition, medications can be used to treat other disorders that can exist along with it (i.e. depression or substance misuse)
  • Psychotherapy
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
      • Such therapy helps an individual identify their negative thoughts to then replace them with positive ones. The following techniques may be used:
        • Covert Sensitization
          • An individual may imagine that they are stealing, but with a negative outcome (i.e. they get caught)
        • Aversion Therapy
          • An individual may engage in mildly painful techniques (i.e. holding their breath every time they have the urge to steal until they don’t feel comfortable anymore)
        • Systematic Desensitization
          • An individual makes use of relaxation techniques where they may picture that they are controlling their urges to steak

How can I or someone I know cope with Kleptomania?

  • Stick to your treatment plan and/or ensure that your loved one does
  • Educate yourself & loved ones
  • Identify the triggers
  • Learn relaxation and stress management techniques
  • Remain focused on your goal
  • Emphasize your support for your loved ones

Histrionic Personality Disorder

What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Individuals who have Histrionic Personality Disorder are individuals who have intense and unstable emotions. In addition, individuals have distorted images and tend to need the approval of others to improve their self-esteem and be happy with themselves. In turn, individuals with such disorder tend to have a strong need for attention and will engage in inappropriate or dramatic behaviors just to get that attention. Often, individuals with this disorder tend to have good social skills however, rather than using them to an advantage and for everyone’s well-being, they use them to manipulate others in order to get their attention.

It is important to note that experts believe that about 3.8 million of adults in the United States suffer from Histrionic Personality Disorder. In addition, it is more common among women than it is in men.

What are the symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder?

  • An individual does not feel comfortable if they are not the center of attention
  • An individual may dress in a provocative way in order for them to get attention
  • An individual tends to shift their emotions from one minute to the next
  • Although they may be sensitive the individual will overreact as is they were before an audience
  • An individual may express an over concern for their physical appearance
  • The individual is easily influenced by others
  • The individuals tends to act before thinking it through
  • An individual is extremely sensitive to any critics
  • An individual is easily bored by a routine
  • An individual does not show concern for others
  • An individual may have a hard time maintaining relationships
  • An individual may threaten or attempt suicide to get the attention of others

What causes Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Although the exact cause is not known, experts believe that genetics play a big role in the development. For example, if an individuals parent or sibling have such disorder, then an individual has a higher chance of developing such condition. Also, there are other environmental factors that are believed to play a role such as a lack of criticism or punishment as a child.

How is Histrionic Personality Disorder treated?

It is often difficult to get an individual with Histrionic Personality Disorder to seek treatment since they often exaggerate their feelings or tend to dislike routine. However, individuals seek therapy for depression for example, if such condition develops with Histrionic Personality Disorder.

In addition, if an individual does seek treatment they often receive the following:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Such counseling is used to help an individual discover the motivations & any fears associated with their thoughts
  • Medication
    • May be used to treat other disorders or symptoms that may exist along with Histrionic Personality Disorder (i.e. anxiety or depression)

How can Histrionic Personality Disorder affect an individual?

  • It can affect the individuals social, professional, or interpersonal relationships
  • The individual is at higher risk of developing such condition

How can I cope with Histrionic Personality Disorder or help someone I know?

  • Educate yourself & loved ones on the subject
  • Seek professional help & take prescribed medications
  • Be patient

Conduct Disorder

What is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder is thought to be a type of behavioral and emotional disorder, which affects children and teens. An individual who is experiencing Conduct Disorder may have a disruptive and violent behavior. Individuals with such disorder often have a hard time following the rules. Although it is common for individuals to experience a time in their lives in which they rebel against others, it is important to note that it becomes a disorder and/or problem when the behavior is long-lasting. The individual often violates the rights of others and their behavior is going against the accepted norms of behaviors and their everyday life, including their families.

In addition, it is believed that between 2 and 16% of children in the United States have been diagnosed with such disorder. Moreover, it is more common in boys than in girls.

What are the symptoms of Conduct Disorder?

The symptoms of the disorder vary from individual to individual depending on their age and severity of the disorder (i.e. mild, moderate, or severe). However, the symptoms fall into 4 categories:

  • Aggressive Behavior
    • Behavior threatens or causes physical harm
      • Fighting, bullying, using weapons, or being cruel to animals for example
    • Destructive Behavior
      • Intentional destruction of property
        • Arson & vandalism for example
      • Deceitful Behavior
        • An individual may be constantly lying, shoplifting or breaking into homes (cars)
      • Violation of Rules
        • An individual goes against the accepted rules of society
        • Individual engages in behaviors that are not accepted nor appropriate for their age (i.e. running away, pranking others, or being sexually active at a young age)

In addition:

  • An individual may be irritable
  • An individual may have a low self-esteem
  • An individual tends to constantly throw temper tantrums

What causes Conduct Disorder?

Although the exact known cause is not known, experts believe that biological (i.e. a part of the brain has an injury or defect), genetic (i.e. siblings or a parent), environmental (i.e. child abuse, inconsistent discipline, or traumatic experiences), social (low socioeconomic status), and psychological factors all play a role in the development of such disorder.

How is Conduct Disorder treated?

The treatment given to the individual will vary depending on the child’s age. However, the following are common treatments that are used:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Helps the child learn to express & control their anger in a much more appropriate way
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
      • Aims to reshape the child’s thinking
    • Family Therapy
      • Helps an individual improve their family interactions and communication
    • Parent Management Training (PMT)
      • Teaches the child’s parent to positively alter their child’s behavior at home
    • Medication
      • Although there is not medication that has formally been approved for the treatment of such disorder, some medication may be used to help decrease some of the symptoms

How can I cope with Conduct Disorder or help someone I know?

  • Talk to your loved one or talk to yourself about any concerns
  • Seek professional help, take all prescribed medications, and attend all therapy sessions
  • Educate yourself and loved ones about the disorder
  • Set firm boundaries & rules in the home
  • If you are a parent with a child with Conduct Disorder, make yourself available for them
  • Participate in your loved one’s treatment
  • Frequently check-in with your loved one

Specific Phobia Disorder

What is Specific Phobia Disorder?

When an individual suffers from Specific Phobia Disorder they experience an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of a certain object or certain situation that in reality is of no danger. However, such situation or object provokes anxiety or avoidance in an individual. Such phobia or fear is nothing like the emotions experienced when an individual is speaking in front of an audience or when taking a test. When an individual suffers from Specific Phobia Disorder, the emotions that they are experiencing are so intense that it begins to impair the individuals’ ability to function normally (i.e. at work, school, or social settings).

It is important to note that Specific Phobia Disorder is among the most common anxiety disorders and that not all phobias may need treatment however, if such phobia is affecting the individual’s daily life, then it is recommended that an individual seeks therapy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are many types of phobia including, but not limited to the following:

  • Situations (i.e. airplanes or enclosed spaces)
  • Nature (i.e. thunderstorms)
  • Animals (i.e. dogs or spiders)
  • Blood, injections or injuries (i.e. needles or medical procedures)
  • Other (i.e. choking, vomiting, falling down or clowns)

What are the symptoms of Specific Phobia Disorder?

  • An individual expresses an excessive or irrational fear of a specific object or situation
  • An individual tends to avoid the object or situation
  • Physical Symptoms that include, but are not limited to the following:
    • Panic attacks
    • Heart pounding
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Shaking
    • Sweating
    • Lightheaded
    • Numbness and/or tingling
  • An individual may become nervous ahead of time when they know they may come across such object or situation
    • For example, an individual who is afraid of dogs may be afraid of going for a walk because they know that they may come across a dog.

Note: Children may express their fear and/or anxiety though crying or throwing a tantrum for example.

What causes Specific Phobia Disorder?

Although the exact cause is not known, traumatic experiences or learned reactions are believed to increase the chances of an individual developing a phobia for an object or situation. For example, if an individual was brutally attacked by a dog, they may in turn develop such fear and/or anxiety towards it.

How is Specific Phobia Disorder treated?

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Systematic Desensitization or Exposure
      • The individual is exposed to what is frightening them or causing them anxiety until the fear begins to go away
    • Medication
      • Short-acting Sedative-hypnotics (i.e. Ativan or Xanax)
      • If phobia is accompanied by depression or panic disorder for example, long-term medications may be used (i.e. antidepressants)
    • Relaxation Techniques
      • Deep breathing
      • Meditation

How can I cope with Specific Phobia Disorder?

  • Educate yourself with the disorder
    • Learn the facts
  • Learn your triggers
  • Seek professional support
    • Do as instructed (i.e. attend all therapy sessions or take medication as prescribed)
  • Challenge yourself
    • For example, if you are afraid of spiders, start by looking at spider images, going to the pet store and looking at spiders, and then touching fake spiders and so on until you are able to get rid of the fear (THIS WILL TAKE TIME)

Selective Mutism

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is considered to be a rare childhood anxiety disorder where a child is unable to speak under certain situations or to certain people. Often, such inability is misinterpreted as the child being shy or timid however, it is not something the child can control. In addition, such condition is typically diagnosed between children ages 3 and 6. Moreover, it is believed that about 1% of the population is affected with Selective Mutism and that girls are twice as likely to develop such disorder compared to boys.

What are the symptoms of Selective Mutism?

The symptoms of Selective Mutism vary from child to child and in intensity. However, the following symptoms tend to be present in such disorder:

  • The child may only speak in certain situations and then stop talking when others appear in such situations
  • A child fails to speak in situations in which they are expected to (i.e. at school), but speak fairly well in others (i.e. with parents)
  • Such inability is impairing the individuals’ ability to live their daily life functioning such as educational or occupational achievement
  • The duration of such actions has been a disturbance for at least 1 month, not counting the individuals first month in school
  • The child’s failure to speak has nothing to do with the lack of knowledge or comfort level for example
  • A child may appear to look frozen or paralyzed when approached by strangers for example
  • A child may make use of pointing, nodding, or facial expressions to meet their needs
  • Such behavior is not caused by other disorders such as Communication Disorder

What causes Selective Mutism?

Although the exact known cause is not known, experts believe that genetics may strongly influence the development of such disorder. In other words, if an individual has a sibling or parent who has been diagnosed with Selective Mutism, the child is at a higher chance of developing the disorder. In addition, if a child has other disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, or Developmental Delays, they are also at higher risks of developing the disorder.

It is also important to note that individuals whose second language is English, are also at a higher risk of developing the disorder.

How is Selective Mutism treated?

  • Behavior Therapy
    • The child learns new skills to control their anxiety and “unlearn” their dependence of mute behavior
    • The child is exposed to increasingly difficult speaking tasks for example
  • Family Therapy
  • Medication
    • May include antidepressants

How can I deal with Selective Mutism?

  • Make sure that you or your loved one do in fact have Selective Mutism
  • Analyze the extent to which such disorder is affecting your daily life functioning
  • Educate yourself and loved ones on the subject
  • Challenge yourself (i.e. raise your hand in class, nod & shake your head when needed)
    • Speak little by little
    • Audio record yourself so that you can develop comfort with your own voice
  • Focus on thinking positive
  • Seek professional help (i.e. a therapist or begin with your primary caregiver)
    • Ensure to attend all assigned therapies and/or take medications as prescribed

Stereotypic Movement Disorder

What is Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

Stereotypic Movement Disorder is classified under Motor Disorders in the DSM-V. Individuals who have such disorder tend to have repetitive, purposeless movement. For example, an individual may repetitively hand wave or bang their head. However, a diagnosis is only given if such behaviors affect the individual daily functioning. It is important to note that such disorder tends to develop in childhood and that it is more common among boys than it is among girls.

What are the symptoms of Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

An individual appears to show the following stereotypic movements (repetitive and purposeless movement):

  • Nail biting
  • Thumb sucking
  • Face slapping
  • Head nodding
  • Hand shaking
  • Hand waving
  • Self-hitting
  • Skin picking
  • Flicking fingers in front of the individual face

It is important to note that the symptoms will vary in severity as follows:

  • Mild
    • The symptoms are easily suppressed by a distraction for example
  • Moderate
    • The symptoms necessitate explicit protective measures and/or behavioral modification
  • Severe
    • Continuous monitoring is required to prevent a serious injury

What causes Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

Although experts have not determined the exact known cause, social isolation, environmental stress, and genetics may play a role in the development. In addition, boredom, stress, excitement, and exhaustion may also be factors that increase the likelihood of developing such disorder in children. Certain physical conditions, head injuries, or drug use have also shown to play a role in the development of Stereotypic Movement Disorder.

How is Stereotypic Movement Disorder treated?

  • Psychotherapy
    • May help an individual reduce their repetitive movements
  • Medication
    • Naltrexone
    • Clomipramine
    • Selective Serotine Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) (i.e. sertraline and fluvoxamine)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Self-monitoring
  • Behavioral Therapy
    • Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors
      • Helps reduce social inappropriate behaviors
    • Functional Communication Training
      • Teaches and rewards the individual for using alternative responses or strategies that replace the movements

How can someone with Stereotypic Movement Disorder cope with such disorder?

  • Educate themselves on the subject
  • Attend therapies and take prescribed medications as indicated
  • Seek professional support

Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is the umbrella term used to describe that it is not a single disorder, but rather there are a variety of closely related disorders to different degrees that fall under such disorder in the DSM-V. An individual who has been diagnosed with Autism tends to face social, communication, and behavioral challenges. However, it is important to note that the degree of these challenges vary from one individual to another. Moreover, such term is now the umbrella term for the following disorders (they fall under Autism Spectrum Disorder):

  • Asperger’s Syndrome
    • A child may be extremely intelligent and will be able to handle their life fairly well however, they may face challenges in their social life
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder
    • Symptoms are not as severe as Autistic Disorder, but not as mild as with Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
    • Not seen as often, but when seen, the child develops “normally” and quickly loses many social, language, and mental skills

Experts say that individuals who fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorder may have difficulties with communicating and interacting with other people, they may have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, and/or symptoms that may affect their ability to live their daily life (i.e. in school, work, or at home).

What are the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

It is important to note that not all people who are diagnosed with such disorder will have the following symptoms. The symptoms will vary from person to person.

Social Symptoms (communication & interaction behaviors):

  • An individual will make little or no eye contact with others
  • An individual tends not to listen to people
  • An individual shows little or no emotion when engaging in activities for example, by pointing or showing things to others
  • An individual may be slow at reacting when someone calls their name
  • An individual appears to have a hard time going back and forth in conversations
  • An individual tends to talk about the same subject for a while without noticing that others are not interested
  • Their facial expressions do not match with what they are saying
  • An individual may have a hard time understanding the point of view of others

Repetitive Behavior Symptoms:

  • An individual tends to repeat their behaviors (i.e. words or phrases)
  • An individual tends to have a deep and overly focused interest in certain things
  • An individual tends to get easily upset when the slightest change is made in a routine
  • An individual may either be more or less sensitive so sensory input (i.e. light or noise)

What causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Although experts are still trying to find the cause, genetics (i.e. having a sibling or parent with such disorder), older parents, low birth weight, and having certain genetic conditions (i.e. Down Syndrome or Rett Syndrome) may increase the chances of an individual being affected by such disorder.

How is Autism Spectrum Disorder treated?

The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome when treatment is received. Early treatment is important because it can help an individual reduce their difficulties and increase their strengths.

  • Medication
  • Behavioral, Psychological, and Educational Therapy
    • May help an individual learn life-skills necessary that will allow an individual to acquire independency
    • May help an individual reduce their challenging behaviors and help build their strengths
    • Will help an individual learn social, language, and communication skills

What can I do to help an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

  • Educate yourself
  • Learn the individuals triggers (i.e. if the noise bothers them too much)
  • Ensure they are taking the prescribed medication & attending their therapy sessions

Autism Facts:

  • Affect 1 in 68 children in the United States, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls
  • About 50,000 teens with autism become adults, but lose school-based autism services
  • 1/3 of individuals affected with autism remain nonverbal
  • 1/3 of individuals affected with autism have an intellectual disability