Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a specific set of behavioral and developmental issues affecting a child’s communication, social interaction and play skills.
Every child with ASD presents differently and has a unique combination of characteristics.
A diagnosis of ASD is based on what a medical doctor or psychologist observes and learns about your child’s behavior and development in the early years.
No one specific cause of ASD is known.
There is no medical cure for the difference in the brain that causes ASD, but with the right treatment, some behaviors can be changed.
What are the signs of ASD?
Autism is a treatable set of characteristics. Individuals with autism do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention significantly improved outcomes. Visit the CDC’s site “Learn the Signs. Act Early” for more information on developmental milestones. Here are some signs to look for:
Lack of or delay in spoken language
Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
Little or no eye contact
Lack of interest in peer relationships
Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
Persistent fixation on parts of objects
Other names for ASD
Often different professionals use different names to describe ASD., this can cause confusion. Some names you may hear used to describe your child are:
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)
Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
High functioning autism
All of these names fall under the term ASD
How common is ASD?
Based on Canadian research by Fombonne and colleagues from 2006, one out of every 165 people have ASD. More recent US data (from the Centers for Disease Control, 2009) show that this incidence may be closer to one in 100. Males account for Four out of five people with ASD. ASD affects people from all parts of the world. It affects people of every social economic background and race.
What causes ASD?
There are many studies looking at the causes of ASD. Although no one specific cause is known, current studies suggest that ASD may be related to differences in the brain.
In some families, there appears to be a pattern of ASD or related differences in more than one member of the family. This suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorder. At this time, no single gene has been directly linked to ASD. In fact, ASD is most likely the result of a complex interaction of several genes. The brain of a child with ASD develops differently from conception Research in this area is ongoing.
Here is a link to the National Institute of Mental Health page regrading ASD: NIMH ASD
Is there a cure for ASD?
There is no cure for autism, but early diagnosis and intervention dramatically improve a child’s chances of fulfilling their potential. Although there is no single treatment that is right for everyone, available supports and treatments include:
Special education services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Physical activity and exercises designed to improve motor skills and coordination
Not being able to communicate and express themselves leads to frustration. This along with social challenges may lead some children with ASDs to develop behavioral problems. Some will become depressed or anxious, particularly in adolescence. Treatment should address these needs as well as help the teen manage their other symptoms. Here is a link to Autism Speaks web site: Autism Speaks