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What Autism Spectrum Disorder

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What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Infant and Toddler NutritionCDCs Infant and Toddler Nutrition website brings together existing information and practical strategies on feeding healthy foods and drinks to infants and toddlers, from birth to 24 months of age. Parents and caregivers can explore these pages to find nutrition information to help give their children a healthy start in life.

Restricted Or Repetitive Behaviors Or Interests

People with ASD have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual. These behaviors or interests set ASD apart from conditions defined by problems with social communication and interaction only.

Examples of restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests related to ASD can include

  • Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over
  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Is focused on parts of objects
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

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.

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Can It Be Prevented

There is currently no known way to prevent autism spectrum disorders, as the causes are not yet fully understood. However, there is evidence that early intervention and therapy can improve symptoms and help children with ASD reach their full potential.

Additionally, many other interventions have been suggested in the literature and may be beneficial for some people with ASD. These include:

  • medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or antipsychotics
  • music therapy
  • speech-language pathology services
  • animal-assisted therapies such as equine-facilitated psychotherapy or canine obedience training classes.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy that aims to reduce distress by changing patterns of thinking and behavior, has also been found to be effective in some cases.

Supportive counselling also helps families cope with having a child on the autistic spectrum disorder. As a result, parents should understand that they should never blame themselves because they had nothing to do with causing this.

A lot of medical professionals recommend following certain diets which include gluten-free and casein free diets.

Additionally, scientists believe it might be important for mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding to take folate supplements and vitamin D to protect her child from developing the disorder later on in life.

Related Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

What are the early signs of Autism

While not part of autisms official diagnostic criteria, children with autism spectrum disorders often suffer from one or more of the following problems:

Sensory problems Many children with autism spectrum disorders either underreact or overreact to sensory stimuli. At times they may ignore people speaking to them, even to the point of appearing deaf. However, at other times they may be disturbed by even the softest sounds. Sudden noises such as a ringing telephone can be upsetting, and they may respond by covering their ears and making repetitive noises to drown out the offending sound. Children on the autism spectrum also tend to be highly sensitive to touch and to texture. They may cringe at a pat on the back or the feel of certain fabric against their skin.

Emotional difficulties Children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. When stressed, they may exhibit disruptive or even aggressive behavior . The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also notes that kids with ASD may be unfazed by real dangers like moving vehicles or heights, yet be terrified of harmless objects such as a stuffed animal.

Savant skills in autism spectrum disorder

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Diagnosis And Early Recognition

ASD is a developmental disorder, with symptoms present before the age of 3 years. Speech delay, or the loss of previously acquired speech, is often the first developmental milestone alerting parents and professionals to possible difficulties related to ASD. Deviances from typical development can sometimes be apparent by 812 months of age however, a diagnosis of ASD cannot be reliably made until the age of 2 years. Because there is currently no known biological test for ASD , a diagnosis is based on developmental history and observed behaviors. Structured diagnostic measures, such as the Autism Diagnostic Interview and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, are administered by highly trained clinicians, and are considered gold standards for diagnosing ASD. Clinicians use information from these measures as well as information collected through any other observation to help determine whether an individual meets criteria for ASD based on symptoms outlined in the DSM-IV. Because a significant proportion of children presenting with ASD have an identifiable genetic disorder, such as Fragile X syndrome, karyotyping and other biomedical tests are often conducted to define the cause of the symptoms for a given child better.

Rachel Kent, Emily Simonoff, in, 2017

How Does Autism Affect Kids

Autistic children may not reach the same developmental milestones as their peers, or they may demonstrate the loss of previously developed social or language skills.

For instance, a 2-year-old without autism may show interest in simple games of make-believe. A 4-year-old without autism may enjoy engaging in activities with other children. An autistic child may have trouble interacting with others or dislike it altogether.

Autistic children may also engage in repetitive behaviors, have difficulty sleeping, or compulsively eat nonfood items. They may find it hard to thrive without a structured environment or consistent routine.

If your child is autistic, you may have to work closely with their teachers to ensure they succeed in the classroom.

Many resources are available to help autistic children as well as their loved ones. Local support groups can be found through the national nonprofit the Autism Society of America.

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A Short History Of Autism

Researchers have been working on autism and autism-like disorders since the 1940s. At that time, autism studies tended to be small in scale and used varying definitions of the disorder. Autism was also sometimes lumped in with other conditions.

Focused research into ASD became more common in the 1980s when the DSM-III established autism as a distinct diagnosis. Since then, researchers have explored the causes, symptoms, comorbidities, efficacy of treatments, and many other issues related to autism.

Researchers have yet to discover a cause for autism. Many of the ideas put forth thus far have been disproven. Likely a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors are at work, which is the case with many psychiatric disorders and conditions.

Autism And Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network

Autism Spectrum Disorder: 10 things you should know

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network is a program funded by CDC to collect data to better understand the number and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities living in different areas of the United States.

ADDM Network goals are to:

  • Describe the population of children with ASD,
  • Compare how common ASD is in different areas of the country,
  • Measure progress in early ASD identification,
  • Identify changes in ASD occurrence over time, and
  • Understand the impact of ASD and related conditions in US communities.

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What Are The Indicators Of Asd

The main characteristics related to ASD fall into 2 broad areas:

  • difficulty with social interactions and communication
  • restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests

The common signs and traits of ASD in children include the following:

  • lack of social or emotional exchanges like pointing, smiling, showing you things
  • lack of non-verbal communication such as nodding and shaking head, using hand gestures
  • difficulty developing and maintaining relationships appropriate to their age, such as peer play, lack of close friends
  • delayed expressed speech and understanding of speech
  • lack of eye contact when speaking
  • loss of language skills at any age
  • excessively following routines, patterns or behaviour, and becoming distressed at changes
  • stereotyped or repetitive speech
  • using objects in unusual ways, such as rolling wheels before eyes
  • movements, such as flapping hands, toe walking
  • strongly reacting to sensory input such as sound, pain or textures
  • restricted or fixated interests. This might be only playing with certain toys or talking about certain topics
  • having difficulty managing emotions, such as frequent and long tantrums

In adults, ASD traits may include the following:

  • struggling with time management
  • your cultural or social surroundings

What Are The Signs

Two people will not experience ASD in the same way as it has a variety of effects. However, there are some uniting factors.

In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday life can be more difficult.

The NAS states that autistic people may feel as though others dont understand them and often have difficulty recognising or understanding others feelings and intentions.

As a result, autistic people can appear to be insensitive, seek out time alone and behave in a way thought to be socially inappropriate, the NHS states.

Autistic people also tend to engage in repetitive behaviour and routines. For example, they may want to always travel the same way to and from school or work, or eat exactly the same food for breakfast.

Many autistic people also experience over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain.

The NHS says autistic people can have any level of intelligence.

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How Is Asd Managed

Various treatment options will be explained to you if your child is diagnosed with ASD. A number of organisations offer education programs and support services, such as Autism Spectrum Australia. These services can support children with ASD, and their parents or caregivers.

Its best to start treatments early after diagnosis. The right support and programs will improve specific symptoms and social skills.

ASD is a dynamic disorder. Each person with ASD has a unique experience. which is influenced by many different factors. That is why autism is thought of as a spectrum. Treatment programs specifically tailored to individual needs often have the best results.

  • Intensive educational programs and therapies can teach language and social skills.
  • Speech pathology focuses on developing communication and social skills.
  • Occupational therapy can support participation and independence as well as sensory motor development. For example, play skills, fine motor skills and learning how to cope in different environments.

Ensure that the therapies, treatments and supports you choose are informed by evidence. Avoid treatments that offer a cure or recovery. There is no evidence to support these claims.

People with ASD may also have a mental illness. Your doctor can help you to get treatment under the mental health care treatment plan. This provides you with 20 appointments with a mental health professional each year.

You can also attend an ASD support group.

Level : Requires Very Substantial Support


Level 3 is the most severe form of autism. Children in this category will have many of the same behaviors as those with levels 1 and 2, but to a more extreme degree.

Problems expressing themselves both verbally and nonverbally can make it very hard to function, interact socially, and deal with a change in focus or location. Engaging in repetitive behaviors is another symptom of level 3 ASD.

A person with ASD level 3 will have a very limited ability to speak clearly and will rarely start interactions with other people. When they do, they will do so awkwardly. Someone with level 3 will also respond only to very direct social approaches from other people.

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Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder involves impairment in social communication and interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behavior, interests, and activities . According to the latest CDC data, the incidence of ASD is 1/59, being 45 times greater in boys . Parent report in the National Health Interview Study suggested a 1 in 45 rate 31% of children with ASD have IQ/DQs < 70, 24% display borderline cognitive skills , and 45% score> 85 at age 8years . The median age of diagnosis is approximately 52months of age, although ASD can be diagnosed as early as 1824months, depending on presentation . However, mention of developmental concerns by age 36months was documented for 89% of children with ASD at the 11 CDC sites. It is reported that 86% of the CDC study population meet the autism criteria of both DSM-5 and DSM-IV TR . In the National Survey of Childrens Health, the weighted prevalence of ever-diagnosed ASD was 2.79% it was 2.5% for current ASD . Children with ASD typically are disadvantaged when compared to peers in regard to language, adaptive, and possibly cognitive development. This is particularly the case if the level of severity is II or III in social communication and interaction .

G. Dawson, L. Sterling, in, 2008

Terminology And Distinction From Schizophrenia

As late as the mid-1970s there was little evidence of a genetic role in autism, however by 2007 it was recognised as one of the most heritable psychiatric conditions. Although the rise of parent organizations and the destigmatization of childhood ASD have affected how ASD is viewed, parents continue to feel social stigma in situations where their child’s autistic behavior is perceived negatively, and many primary care physicians and medical specialists express beliefs consistent with outdated autism research.

It took until 1980 for the DSM-III to differentiate autism from childhood schizophrenia. In 1987, the DSM-III-R provided a checklist for diagnosing autism. In May 2013, the DSM-5 was released, updating the classification for pervasive developmental disorders. The grouping of disorders, including PDD-NOS, autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, and CDD, has been removed and replaced with the general term of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The two categories that exist are impaired social communication and/or interaction, and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors.

The Internet has helped autistic individuals bypass nonverbal cues and emotional sharing that they find difficult to deal with, and has given them a way to form online communities and work remotely.Societal and cultural aspects of autism have developed: some in the community seek a cure, while others believe that autism is simply another way of being.

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Resources To Support Developmental Screening

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! encourages healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.

Easter SealsEaster Seals provides parents with FREE access to the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, Third Edition, one of many general developmental screening tools. . Be sure to share the completed questionnaire and results with your childs doctor.

Ask your childs doctor about your childs developmental screening.

Understanding The Three Levels Of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder | Clinical Presentation

Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

There are three levels of autism spectrum disorder , which are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition .

Each person with ASD is further diagnosed with either ASD level 1, level 2, or level 3, depending on how severe their disorder is and how much support they need in their daily life.

The levels range from least to most severe, with ASD level 3 describing an individual who has the most severe level of ASD symptoms, and ASD level 1 describing someone with symptoms on the milder end of the spectrum.

This article discusses the symptoms that are typical of each of the three ASD levels. It also includes realistic examples of the strengths and limitations that are unique to each level.

Verywell / Cindy Chung

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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.

NIH participates in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , a Federal advisory committee that is designed to coordinate Federal efforts and provide advice on issues related to ASD. The committee is 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.

More information about research on ASD supported by NINDS and other NIH Institutes and Centers can be found using NIH RePORTER , a searchable database of current and past research projects supported by NIH and other federal agencies. RePORTER also includes links to publications and resources from these projects.

Autism Symptoms In Adults At Home

Other peoples feelings baffle you. You have a collection of figurines on your desk that must be in the same order at all times. These, and other common manifestations of ASD, may be apparent in adults at home:

  • Your family members lovingly refer to you as the eccentric professor of the family, even though you dont work in academia.
  • Youve always wanted a best friend, but never found one.
  • You often invent your own words and expressions to describe things.
  • Even when youre in a quiet place, like the library, you find yourself making involuntary noises like clearing your throat over and over.
  • You follow the same schedule every day of the week, and dont like unexpected events.
  • Expressions like, Curiosity killed the cat or Dont count your chickens before they hatch are confusing to you.
  • You are always bumping into things and tripping over your own feet.
  • In your leisure time, you prefer to play individual games and sports, like golf, where everyone works for themselves instead of working toward a common goal on a team.

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