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.
- 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
- 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