Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range of disorders on the autism spectrum. People affected by ASD often have a wide range of symptoms, skill levels, and disabilities. Some cases of ASD are very mild, while others are very severe including conditions that make the patient nonverbal and many times seemingly incoherent. Characteristics of people who have autism include ongoing social problems that include difficulties communicating with others, repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities, symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life, and symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially at school/work/home/etc.
People who fall anywhere on the ASD spectrum are usually classified by behaviors that fall into one of two categories. Those categories are “restrictive/repetitive behaviors” or “the social communications/interaction behaviors” categories. People who fall into the “restrictive/repetitive” category are likely to display symptoms including repeating certain behaviors/having unusual behavior patterns, having overly-focused interests (i.e. moving objects or certain parts of objects), having a long-lasting intense interest in certain topics (i.e. numbers, details, or facts). People who fall into the “social communications/interaction behaviors” category are likely to display symptoms including getting upset over a slight change in daily routines/schedules, making little/inconsistent eye contact, having a tendency to look at/listen to other people less often, rarely sharing enjoyment of activities/objects with others, respond to others emotions (i.e. stress, anger, or affection) in an usual way, having difficulties with back and forth conversations, repeating random words heard (echolalia), using words that seem unique/odd/out of place to anyone not familiar with that person’s communication style, having facial expressions/gestures unclear based on what is being done/said, speaking in robot-like or sing-song voices, and having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or points of view.
Many people with ASD spectrum disorder are extra-sensitive to experiences including light, noise, clothing, or temperature. Many experience difficulties with sleeping, digesting, and irritability. Most pediatricians believed it is best to discover ASD spectrum disorders at a child’s 18-and-24-month checkup. Every child is tested for ASD spectrum disorders at their 18-and-24-month checkups. The earlier the child is diagnosed the more positive many doctors feel that they can treat the condition to provide a better outcome for that child in the long term.
Boys are more likely to have ASD spectrum disorders than girls. About 20% of ASD cases are genetic as in the child being born with the condition due to genetic mutations in the child’s DNA or genes. Many children with ASD spectrum disorder are comorbid (suffering from more than one disability) with other conditions including Down syndrome, fragile-X syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis among other conditions. ASD is considered a “common” condition in the US with over 200,000 cases being diagnosed each year. ASD has no cure, but treatment may help. It currently effects 1 in 45 children between the ages of 3 and 17.