What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.; NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.;
Nearly 20 years ago the NIH formed the Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader;Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by NIH and other participating organizations.
Characteristics Of Individuals With An Autism Spectrum Disorder
;Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D; Updated by: Rachel Hopf, M.A., SLP-CCC, Graduate Assistant and Kelsey Larriba-Quest, M.Ed., Graduate Assistant;
While individuals with an autism spectrum disorder are unique as anyone else, some common global characteristics exist within the population. These characteristics vary in intensity, degree, and amount, and manifest differently from person to person and over time. The following characteristics associated with ASD are loosely based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition and should be used to gain a better understanding of individuals identified with ASD, design a program, or facilitate discussion.
Typical Characteristics Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
An individual with autism does not always show every symptom. However, there are some characteristics;and;observed indications.; Determining these indications early on is substantially important for the education of the individual. Starting the education early on enables individual with autism to easily adapt to life and society. Also, parents learn how to approach their children with autism and act accordingly.
Generally, autism shows itself in terms of 3 different states. The individual should show at least two of these indications under these categories. Social interaction problems, communication problems, limited and recurring behaviors are 3 main topics that make up the categories. Lets see which symptoms are listed under these topics:
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Diagnosis Of Autism In Adults
It is not unusual for autistic people to have reached adulthood without a diagnosis.;
Sometimes people will discover some information about autism that makes them think That sounds like me. They may then choose to talk to a health professional for a diagnosis, or they may not.;
You may choose to seek a diagnosis for suspected autism if:
- you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and/or intellectual disability during childhood or adolescence, but think that you may have autism
- you have struggled with feeling socially isolated and different
- your child or another family member has been diagnosed with autism and some of the characteristics of autism sound familiar to you.
If you wish to seek an assessment for autism, you can:
- talk to your GP who may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in the assessment and diagnosis of autism
- talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in the assessment and diagnosis of autism .
A psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in the assessment and diagnosis of autism will ask you about your childhood, and experiences at school and as an adult. They may also do some psychological or psychiatric testing. A speech therapist may also be consulted to assess your social communication skills. All of this information will be used to help make a diagnosis.
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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How Can I Tell If My Child Is Autistic
As a parent, you will be very attuned to your childs development. But that does not always mean that signs of delay or developmental differences will be obvious to you. It is important to recognise that your child might not always show what is thought of as classic signs that they are autistic. For example, sometimes parents might think my child couldnt be autistic because their child is very sociable or makes eye contact. Autistic children learn to mask , which means they are able to perform behaviour that is deemed to be the social norm. It is important to take note of any slight changes or differences in your child, for example, your child may be conversational but may be delayed in their response or might repeat phrases from their favourite tv shows, movies or songs.; If your child has sensory challenges it might be observable in their emotions or anxiety levels in a busy place such as a shopping centre or how they feel about labels of their clothes or wearing certain fabrics for example. If your child has trouble getting to sleep and sleeping through the night, this may be a sign that they might be struggling and need help. There is nothing wrong with any aspect of your childs behaviour, even if they are engaging in behaviours that would not be thought of as typical behaviours such as flapping or rocking. Your childs behaviour serves a function for them and allows them to regulate their environment.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed
There are no laboratory tests to determine ASD. However, certain healthcare providers receive specific training and can do screenings and evaluations if needed and who might ask parents or teachers to record observations. These providers might include specialized physicians, psychologists and speech-language pathologists.
Autism And Your Environment
Sometimes, when a situation is too much to cope with due to sensory input , or being asked to do things that cause stress or distress, an autistic person can become overwhelmed.
Meltdowns and shutdowns
When an autistic person becomes overwhelmed and isnt able to use or benefit from their coping strategies, they might have meltdowns or shutdowns.
Its important, for parents of autistic children in particular, to be aware that a meltdown isnt a tantrum. A tantrum is something that a child can control, and tantrums often happen because a child wants something. A meltdown or shutdown isnt something an autistic person can control, and its caused by being overwhelmed.
During a meltdown, an autistic person might try to make themselves feel less overwhelmed. This can include doing things like:
- trying to get away from people for example by running away or hiding
- trying to get people away from them for example by shouting, screaming, hitting, or acting aggressively;
During a shutdown, an autistic person might try to block everything out for example by not responding to anything or anyone around them.
Like everyone else, autistic people can display challenging behaviour if theyre in the wrong environment. While it can be challenging for the people around them, this behaviour is often a result of distress or frustration, particularly if an autistic person has difficulty with communicating.
Other Symptoms Of Autism
Autistic individuals may have symptoms that are independent of the diagnosis, but that can affect the individual or the family. A small fraction of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder show unusual abilities, ranging from splinter skills such as the memorization of trivia to the extraordinarily rare talents of prodigious autistic savants.
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Treatment Considerations: Asha’s Position
Several treatment options and approaches lack scientific evidence of validity and are not endorsed by ASHA. They are Auditory Integration Training , Facilitated Communication , and Rapid Prompting Method . Below are brief descriptions of these treatments, along with ASHA’s position on each. Click on the hyperlinks provided to read ASHA’s full position statements.
Auditory Integration Training
Auditory Integration Training is a type of sensory integration treatment that involves exercising the middle ear muscles and auditory nervous system to treat a variety of auditory and nonauditory disorders, including auditory processing problems, dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention-deficit disorders, and ASD. The treatment typically involves listening to specially filtered and modulated music for two 30-minute sessions per day for 10 consecutive days. The objective is to reduce distortions in hearing and hypersensitivity to specific frequencies so that the individual will be able to perceive soundsâincluding speechâin a normal fashion.
According to ASHA’s position statement titled, Auditory Integration Training, “The 2002 ASHA Work Group on AIT, after reviewing empirical research in the area to date, concludes that AIT has not met scientific standards for efficacy that would justify its practice by audiologists and speech-language pathologists” .
Rapid Prompting Method
Getting Evaluated For Autism Spectrum Disorder
Parent interview In the first phase of the diagnostic evaluation, you will give your doctor background information about your childs medical, developmental, and behavioral history. If you have been keeping a journal or taking notes on anything thats concerned you, share that information. The doctor will also want to know about your familys medical and mental health history.
Medical exam The medical evaluation includes a general physical, a neurological exam, lab tests, and genetic testing. Your child will undergo this full screening to determine the cause of their developmental problems and to identify any co-existing conditions.
Hearing test Since hearing problems can result in social and language delays, they need to be excluded before an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed. Your child will undergo a formal audiological assessment where they are tested for any hearing impairments, as well as any other hearing issues or sound sensitivities that sometimes co-occur with autism.
Observation Developmental specialists will observe your child in a variety of settings to look for unusual behavior associated with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. They may watch your child playing or interacting with other people.
Lead screening Because lead poisoning can cause autistic-like symptoms, the National Center for Environmental Health recommends that all children with developmental delays be screened for lead poisoning.
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What Are Some Common Signs Of Asd
Even as infants, children with ASD may seem different, especially when compared to other children their own age. They may become overly focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, and fail to engage in typical babbling with their parents. In other cases, children may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
The severity of ASD can vary greatly and is based on the degree to which social communication, insistence of sameness of activities and surroundings, and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the daily functioning of the individual.
Social impairment and communication difficultiesMany people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly challenging. Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact with other people, and only interact with others to achieve specific goals. Often children with ASD do not understand how to play or engage with other children and may prefer to be alone. People with ASD may find it difficult to understand other peoples feelings or talk about their own feelings.
Autistic Traits And Diagnosis
Autistic traits meaning things that autistic people often do, think, and feel are often shared by people who dont have autism too. This doesnt mean that everyone is a little bit autistic, or that autistic people dont need support.
To be diagnosed with autism, a person has to have a lot of autistic traits from birth, and those traits need to have a big effect on their life. In order to be diagnosed with autism, those traits must cause what a healthcare professional would call clinically significant difficulties in their day-to-day life. This means that they have difficulties with day-to-day life due to their autistic traits and need to use their own ways of overcoming those difficulties, or the people in their life need to help them to overcome them, or both.
Being in a supportive environment makes a big difference to an autistic persons wellbeing and quality of life.
Psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy are often used to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, both in people who have autism and people who dont.
Psychological therapies can help to manage conditions linked with autism, like anxiety, but psychological therapies arent a treatment for autism itself. Therapy techniques might need to be adapted to work for an autistic person.
Challenges in daily living
Possible therapies include:
Finding the right therapies
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Are Siblings At Greater Risk For Autism Spectrum Disorder
The truth is that genetics do play a role in autism. When one child is diagnosed with ASD, the next child to come along has about a 20% greater risk of developing autism than normal. When the first two children in a family have both been diagnosed with ASD, the third child has about a 32% greater risk of developing ASD.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated
ASD is most often a life-long condition. Both children and adults with autism benefit from behavioral interventions or therapies that can teach new skills to address the core deficits of autism and to reduce the core symptoms. Every child and adult with autism is unique. For this reason, the treatment plan is individualized to meet specific needs. It is best to begin interventions as soon as possible, so the benefits of therapy can continue on throughout the course of life.
Many people with ASD often have additional medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and feeding issues, seizures and sleep disturbances. Treatment can involve behavioral therapy, medications or both.
Early intensive behavioral treatments involves the entire family and possibly a team of professionals. As your child ages and develops, treatment may be modified to cater to their specific needs.
During adolescence, children benefit from transition services that promote skills of independence essential in adulthood. The focus at that point is on employment opportunities and job skill training.
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Persistent Challenges In Social Interaction
These are often some of the first characteristics that will present in children with autism. However, because development varies from person to person, it can be a while before parents or therapists are willing to consider these problems as indicators of a child on the spectrum.
Some of these social communications include issues with back-and-forth conversation, difficulty in understanding social cues, or trouble with developing relationships. In these examples, a child might refuse to answer questions when prompted, or avoid eye contact when it is attempted, and then have subsequent difficulty making friends.
Once you begin to notice these patterns in a child, it is not cause for panic or concern. Instead, make sure to have them evaluated by a psychologist, and if there is a diagnosis of autism, begin educating yourself and your family on how to best adjust.
Role Of The Slp In Diagnosis
Interdisciplinary collaboration in assessing and diagnosing ASD is important due to the complexity of the disorder, the varied aspects of functioning affected, and the need to distinguish ASD from other disorders or medical conditions.
Ideally, the SLP is a key member of an interdisciplinary team with expertise in diagnosing ASD. When there is no appropriate team available, an SLPâwho has been trained in the clinical criteria for ASD and who is experienced in diagnosing developmental disordersâmay be qualified to diagnose these disorders as an independent professional .
Some state laws or regulations may restrict a licensee’s scope of practice and may prohibit the SLP from providing such diagnoses. SLPs should check with their state licensure boards and/or state departments of education for specific requirements.
See the Assessment section of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Evidence Map for pertinent scientific evidence, expert opinion, and client/caregiver perspective.
Interdisciplinary collaboration and family involvement are essential in assessing and diagnosing ASD. The SLP is a key member of an interdisciplinary team that includes the child’s pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist, and a developmental pediatrician. There are a number of available algorithms and tools to help physicians develop a strategy for early identification of children with ASD .
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Common Characteristics Of People With Autism
Some children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrate a delay early in life while others appear to develop typically until the age of 18-30 months, when parents may notice delays or regression in language, play or social interaction.
The following are characteristics frequently observed in people with autism:
Communication Language develops slowly or not at all. May use sounds or echolalia , may communicate with gestures or behaviors instead of words.ORLanguage is advanced and;for their age children with Asperger Syndrome often display a Little Professor manner of speaking and older children and adults may have a stilted manner of speech. May have trouble taking turns in conversation or dominates conversation with their area of interest.
Sensory May be unusually sensitive or notably insensitive to sounds, textures, tastes, touch and sights. May cover the ears or become distressed by sounds and light, may eat a very limited range of food.ORMay seem unaware of personal space or seem unaware of surroundings or what is going on around them.
SocialMay seem more comfortable alone rather than with others. May not respond to their name but does respond to other sounds. May show a;lack of appropriate eye contact. May seem unaware of others or;treat others as objects. May prefer parallel play rather than interactive play. May show limited understanding of social cues;and/or personal space.