Thursday, October 19, 2023

An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder

 Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders that affect about 1 in 44 Americans. Scientists are still learning about and studying ASD. They previously categorized the disorders into five types. As of 2013, when the American Psychiatric Association released the updated “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” ASD is now comprised of a continuum of different signs and symptoms.

People with ASD generally struggle with social communication and interaction. For example, they might not make eye contact. As babies, they typically won’t respond to their names or show any emotive facial expressions by 9 months of age. They do not play interactive games or make gestures, such as waving, by 12 months. They don’t not share things of interests, such as toys, with others by 15 months or play with other children by 32 months.

People with ASD may display restricted or repetitive interests or behaviors. This may manifest in the form of obsessive interests or adherence to certain routines. They may line up objects and be upset when the objects are disorganized, or play with toys the same way each time and get upset by small changes. Repetitive behaviors can also manifest in physical actions, such as hand flapping or spinning in circles.

There are different levels of autism, categorized by how severe the symptoms are and how much support the individual needs. If someone is level one, they may have difficulty interacting with others or moving between activities. However, with the right support, they may be able to learn how to manage these difficulties. Someone with level two ASD behaves in ways that affect daily functioning, and will need more support. People at level three are seriously impacted, with challenges that affect their whole lives. They have very few social interactions.

There is no medical test used to diagnose ASD, which means doctors must look at an individual’s developmental history and behavior. Individuals can be diagnosed as young as 18 months, though many children do not get diagnosed until they are much older, which means they do not get the early intervention that could help them. Early diagnosis is key to helping individuals with ASD live their best lives and reach their full potential.

Parents can play a part in early diagnosis by tracking their children’s development and monitoring whether their children are hitting appropriate milestones based upon their ages. Regular doctor visits can also aid in tracking, as medical professionals are trained to ask questions and interact with children to assess their progress. Each child receives assessments at their 18- and 24-month checkups.

If a child is suspected to have ASD, they will meet with specialists, including a child psychologist, speech language pathologist, and occupational therapist. Specialists will assess the child’s language abilities and cognitive level, as well as skills such as dressing, eating, and using the bathroom. Doctors might also recommend genetic testing to rule out other conditions.

There are many treatments available to support individuals with ASD, including discrete trial training, which uses a step-by-step instruction to help people learn how to behave in a desired way, and pivotal response training, which helps people improve certain skills. People with ASD may also benefit from occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.

An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder

 Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders that affect about 1 in 44 Americans. Scientists are still learning abo...