Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.
People with ASD often have these characteristics:
- Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others
- Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities
- Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life
- Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Families with concerns should talk to their pediatrician about what they’ve observed and the possibility of ASD screening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 1 in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD.
Signs & Symptoms
Parents or doctors may first identify ASD behaviors in infants and toddlers. School staff may recognize these behaviors in older children. Not all people with ASD will show all of these behaviors, but most will show several. There are two main types of behaviors: “restricted/repetitive behaviors” and “social communication/interaction behaviors.”
Restrictive/repetitive behaviors may include:
- Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors
- Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
- Having a lasting, intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.
Treatment & Therapies
Early treatment for ASD and proper care can reduce individuals’ difficulties while helping them learn new skills and make the most of their strengths. The very wide range of issues facing those “on the spectrum” means that there is no single best treatment for ASD. Working closely with a doctor or health care professional is an important part of finding the right treatment program. There are many treatment options, social services, programs, and other resources that can help.
Here are some tips:
- Keep a detailed notebook. Record conversations and meetings with health care providers and teachers. This information helps when its time to make decisions.
- Record doctors’ reports and evaluations in the notebook. This information may help an individual qualify for special programs.
- Contact the local health department, school, or autism advocacy groups to learn about their special programs.
- Talk with a pediatrician, school official, or physician to find a local autism expert who can help develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.
- Find an autism support group. Sharing information and experiences can help individuals with ASD and/or their caregivers learn about options, make decisions, and reduce stress.
A doctor may use medication to treat some difficulties that are common with ASD. With medication, a person with ASD may have fewer problems with:
- Repetitive behavior
- Attention problems
- Anxiety and depression