Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), includes a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with some or all of the following areas:
- Social skill interactions
- Repetitive physical or speech behaviors
- Communication difficulties
According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today. There isn’t really one set of symptoms that comprises “Autism” but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Autism is viewed as a spectrum, and therefore each person with autism has a distinct set of abilities and difficulties. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to very low functioning. Some people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, function completely independently as members of society.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues. The earliest indications of Autism usually appear by age 2 or 3, however it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Most of the research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
Evaluation of Autism
Proper diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder relies upon a combination of observational techniques, input from parents, caregivers, and teachers, as well as the use of standardized measures such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS) and others. Once a diagnosis is in place, a qualified evaluator can create a roadmap of interventions for the individual. These may include recommendations for speech and occupational therapies, work with an Autism specialist on behaviors and communication, or other forms of complimentary intervention protocols.