What Are The Signs Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Signs of ASD range from mild to severely disabling, and every person is different. The following signs are considered to be red flags that indicate your young child may be at risk for autism. If your child shows any of the following signs, please get in touch with your childs healthcare provider to discuss a referral for an autism evaluation.
The signs include the following:
- Your child doesnt respond to their name being called at all or responds inconsistently.
- Your child doesnt smile widely or make warm, joyful expressions by the age of 6 months.
- Your child doesnt engage in smiling, making sounds and making faces with you or other people by the age of 9 months.
- Your child doesnt babble by 12 months.
- No back-and-forth gestures such as showing, pointing, reaching or waving by 12 months.
- No words by 16 months.
- No meaningful, two-word phrases by 24 months.
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
Restricted Behavior And Play
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:
- Repetitive body movements ; moving constantly.
- Obsessive attachment to unusual objects .
- Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, sometimes involving numbers or symbols .
- A strong need for sameness, order, and routines . Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
- Clumsiness, atypical posture, or odd ways of moving.
- Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys .
- Hyper- or hypo-reactive to sensory input .
No Link Between Autism And Immunisation
Any link between immunisation and autism has been completely discredited.
During the 1990s, concern in the community about a possible link between the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and autism was generated by the findings of research conducted in London in 1998. The Wakefield study has since been discredited and withdrawn by the journal that originally published it. Dr Wakefields registration as a doctor in the United Kingdom has also been cancelled.;
Extensive research conducted globally for a decade did not establish any link between vaccines and autism.
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Early Screening For Autism Spectrum Disorder
Because autism spectrum disorders range from mild to severe, many children are not diagnosed early. Diagnosing autism may be difficult because there are no medical tests, such as blood tests, that can diagnose children. Therefore, treatments may be delayed for years. Autism can sometimes be detected in children 18 months or younger. Many pediatric doctors can diagnosis children by age 2.
Developmental screening for children is an efficient test to tell if they are learning basic skills when they should. During this exam a doctor might ask the parent some questions or talk and play with the child to see how he/she learns, speaks, behaves, and moves. All children should be screened during their 9-, 18- and 24-month well-child doctor visits. Older children are often screened if they seem to fall behind age-related developmental levels.
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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Autism Screening And Diagnosis
It can be hard to get a definite diagnosis of autism. Your doctor will focus on behavior and development.
For children, diagnosis usually takes two steps.
- A developmental screening will tell your doctor whether your child is on track with basic skills like learning, speaking, behavior, and moving. Experts suggest that children be screened for these developmental delays during their regular checkups at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months of age. Children are routinely checked specifically for autism at their 18-month and 24-month checkups.
- If your child shows signs of a problem on these screenings, theyâll need a more complete evaluation. This might include hearing and vision tests or genetic tests. Your doctor might want to bring in someone who specializes in autism disorders, like a developmental pediatrician or a child psychologist. Some psychologists can also give a test called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule .
If you werenât diagnosed with autism as a child but notice yourself showing signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Social And Communication Skills
Impairments in social skills present many challenges for individuals with ASD. Deficits in social skills may lead to problems with friendships, romantic relationships, daily living, and vocational success. One study that examined the outcomes of adults with ASD found that, compared to the general population, those with ASD were less likely to be married, but it is unclear whether this outcome was due to deficits in social skills or intellectual impairment, or some other reason.
Prior to 2013, deficits in social function and communication were considered two separate symptoms of autism. The current criteria for autism diagnosis require individuals to have deficits in three social skills: social-emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communication, and developing and sustaining relationships.
Some of the symptoms related to social reciprocity include:
- Lack of mutual sharing of interests: many children with autism prefer not to play or interact with others.
- Lack of awareness or understanding of other people’s thoughts or feelings: a child may get too close to peers without noticing that this makes them uncomfortable.
- Atypical behaviors for attention: a child may push a peer to gain attention before starting a conversation.
Symptoms related to relationships includes the following:
- Defects in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.
- Difficulties adjusting behavior to fit social contexts.
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Getting The Right Environment
Environment is important to quality of life for autistic people. There are ways you can adapt and improve your environment to make it as comfortable and supportive as possible for you or your child.
The social model of disability is a way of looking at the world that treats the difficulties people with disabilities have as being caused by barriers in society, rather than just the disabilities themselves. These barriers can be physical for example, buildings not having accessible toilets. Barriers can also be caused by peoples attitudes for example, many people will assume someone is lying because they dont make eye contact while talking.
The social model of disability can be a helpful way of considering the difficulties someone faces, and how to adapt their environment so it works for them.
Common changes to an environment that can help autistic people include:
- sensory changes for example, being given a quiet space to work, being able to use sensory toys like fidget spinners, or being allowed to make noises while working
- communication changes for example, using email or apps to communicate, using very clear language, allowing additional time to ask questions, or using visual communication such as photos or pictures as well as written words
- routine keeping to a regular routine and giving warning of any changes as far in advance as possible
Is Rett Syndrome An Asd
Children with Rett syndrome often have behaviors similar to autism, and experts used to group it among spectrum disorders. But now that itâs known to be caused by a genetic mutation, itâs no longer considered an ASD.
National Institute of Mental Health: “Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet.”
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: âSpecifying PDD-NOS: A Comparison of PDD-NOS, Asperger Syndrome, and Autism.â
Psychiatric Clinics of North America: âThe autistic spectrum: subgroups, boundaries, and treatment.â
Spectrum: âReclassification of Rett syndrome diagnosis stirs concerns.â
Rettsyndrome.org: âWhat is Rett Syndrome?â
Autism Speaks: âAsperger Syndrome,â âAbout Autism: Why Was My Child Diagnosed with Autism? And What Does It Mean?â
Centers for Disease Control: âFacts About ASD.â
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The Facts About Autism And Common Misconceptions
Are you finding that well-meaning family and friends, media commentators even some health professionals are making you more concerned and confused about your own or your childs autism or suspected autism?
Misinformation and mixed messages can lead to feelings of guilt and isolation and can work against a proactive diagnosis and support program. Although the global understanding of autism is constantly evolving, here are some of the commonly understood facts, to help you put some of these misconceptions about autism to bed.
Signs In Developmental Period
- In order to be diagnosed with autism, symptoms must have been present in the early developmental period of a persons life. It can be difficult to pick up on signs and characteristics of autism for many parents, as raising a child in something that is very new to most people. For parents that already have a child diagnosed with autism, they may be more aware of the signs of autism so they pick up on these earlier. Or for other parents that have an older child that is typically developing, they also may pick up on the signs of autism earlier as they have a child to compare development with. See our signs and checklist for children with autism page for more information.
- For many adults, they many only become aware of the signs or characteristics of autism in relation to their own behaviours later in life. When they then think back over their life they may start to identify how autism may have impacted their life at different moments such as realising that others seemed to know what others were thinking when they found it difficult to read peoples emotions. Many adults with autism have learnt strategies to support their challenges throughout their lifetime. It is therefore important to think about what signs or characteristics were present at a young age when seeking a diagnosis as an adult. See our signs and checklist for adults with autism page for more information.
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Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism
There is no link between childhood vaccines and autism spectrum disorders. The CDC completed nine studies which concluded that there is no connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Thimerosal has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines, except for some flu vaccines.
Autism Symptoms And Screening
It is commonplace to have a family member or close friend with a child diagnosed with one of the autism spectrum disorders . These are a set of neurodevelopmental disabilities affecting young children and adults, which are currently not considered “curable.” The goals of management include minimizing the symptoms and maximizing both independent function and quality of life. These are not uncommon disorders. Their prevalence has been estimated as approximately 6.5 per 1000 children, or 1 in every 150 children. Many believe that there is an “Autism Epidemic.” However, as with many diseases and disorders, there are many reasons for this high prevalence.
Fortunately, significant media coverage and increased research have resulted in a better educated public and more vigilant healthcare practitioners. It is clear that early diagnosis and intervention are associated with better outcomes.
The current Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition identifies two features that are associated with autism:
- impairment in social interaction and communication, and
- repetitive unusual behavior patterns .
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Human Rights And Legal Status
The law treats person with intellectual disabilities differently than those without intellectual disabilities. Their human rights and freedoms, including the right to vote, the right to conduct business, enter into a contract, enter into marriage, right to education, are often limited. The courts have upheld some of these limitations and found discrimination in others. The , which sets minimum standards for the rights of persons with disabilities, has been ratified by more than 180 countries. In , and several states, persons with intellectual disabilities are disenfranchised. The ruled in Alajos Kiss v. Hungary that Hungary violated the applicant’s rights by a blank disenfranchisement of persons with intellectual disabilities who did not hold legal capacity.
Signs Of Autism In Children
The signs of autism can change as children grow babies and toddlers show different signs of autism than children aged 4 and older.;
Babies and toddlers
Signs of autism in babies and toddlers can include a number of things that affect different parts of their life and behaviour.
Autistic babies and toddlers might:
- start talking later than most children
- seem less aware of others around them for example, they might not respond to their name being called
- make repetitive movements when excited or upset – for example flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or making the same noise repeatedly
Autistic babies and toddlers might not:
- smile back when you smile at them
- point to show when they want something
- point to show you something they find interesting
Autistic babies and toddlers might:
- spend a long time setting up toys in a certain way, and set them up the same way every time
- enjoy lining toys up in order, or watching parts of them move
Autistic babies and toddlers might not:
- seem interested in playing with other children their age
- seem to use their toys to make up stories or pretend they might also start pretend play at a later age than most children
Autistic babies and toddlers might:
- react strongly to sounds, smells, touch, tastes, or things they can see for example, if they like the way a stuffed toy feels, they want to spend a lot of time stroking the toy
- become upset if given something to eat or drink thats new to them
- eat a limited range of foods
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What Disorders Are Related To Asd
Certain known genetic disorders are associated with an increased risk for autism, including Fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis each of which results from a mutation in a single, but different, gene. Recently, researchers have discovered other genetic mutations in children diagnosed with autism, including some that have not yet been designated as named syndromes. While each of these disorders is rare, in aggregate, they may account for 20 percent or more of all autism cases.
People with ASD also have a higher than average risk of having epilepsy. Children whose language skills regress early in life before age 3 appear to have a risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. About 20 to 30 percent of children with ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. Additionally, people with both ASD and intellectual disability have the greatest risk of developing seizure disorder.
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.
Autism And Assistive Technology
Technology has recently given some children with severe autism ways to communicate. Assistive technology is any product, item, or piece of equipment that is used by a person with a disability to perform tasks, improve functional capabilities, and become more independent. The assistive technology may be a computer tablet, a computer, or even a phone app with programs especially designed to engage children with autism. For students with severe communication difficulties, a device with a speech-generating app or a speech generating device may be highly effective.
Understanding The Three Levels Of Autism
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Anyone who meets the criteria for having autism spectrum disorder will be further diagnosed as having ASD level 1, ASD level 2, or ASD level 3, according to criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition .
These levels are based on a person’s strengths and limitations in regards to their ability to communicate, adapt to new situations, expand beyond restricted interests, and manage daily life. They specifically indicate how much support an autistic person needs, with level 1 meaning relatively little support is required and level 3 indicating the need for a great deal of support.
The three levels of autism make it possible for doctors to make a specific diagnosis and also helps people who are taking care of someone with autism have a clear understanding of that person’s strengths and limitations. The levels described in the DSM-5 reflect a more refined way of diagnosing autism than that of the previous DSM.
In the previous versionthe DSM-IVautism was divided into five distinct diagnoses ranging from Asperger’s syndrome to autistic disorder, which indicated severe autism.