Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that contains a broad range of disorders that affect communication and behavior. There is a wide variety of types and severity of symptoms that people experience. Individuals with ASD have persistent challenges in social interaction, problems with speech and nonverbal communication and sometimes repetitive or restricted behaviors. ASD can be diagnosed at any age, but symptoms generally begin appearing by the age of 2. Individuals with ASD can face significant challenges in the ability to function properly at work, school, and in other areas of life but many individuals with ASD live independent and successful lives.
Signs and Symptoms
Not all individuals with ASD show the same signs and symptoms.
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Children on the autism spectrum often have a unique medley of impairments and strengths. Some adolescents on the autism spectrum are fully verbal and need only limited support. Others have no language skills and are mostly or fully dependent on others to care for themselves. As autism expert Dr. Steven Shore stated, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
Some common social interaction and communication behaviors include:
- Not looking at or listening to other people
- Failing to or being slow to respond to someone trying to gain their attention
- Not making eye contact
- Difficulties with conversation
- Talking at length about a subject without noticing that others aren’t interested
- Flat or inappropriate facial expressions
- Trouble understanding others’ feelings or talking about their own feelings
Some common restrictive and repetitive behaviors include:
- Echolalia—repeating words or phrases
- A lasting and intense interest in certain topics
- Overly focused interest in this such as moving objects
- Easily upset by changes in routine
- More or less sensitive than other people to sensory input
- Flapping hands, rocking body or moving in circles
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately
1 in 59 children
has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups but is 4 times more likely to occur in boys than girls. In some studies, it was shown that if one identical twin has ASD, the other twin is 36-95% more likely also to have ASD. Parents who have a child with ASD are 2-18% more likely to have a second child with the disorder.
Medication can be used to treat some of the behaviors that go along with ASD such as anxiety and depression, hyperactivity, attention issues, irritability, and aggression. People with ASD may also benefit from programs that help them learn social, communication, and language skills. Therapies that help build life skills and reduce challenging behaviors can also be helpful.