Autism spectrum disorder (ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate with others. ASD can also result in restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of impairment or disability that people with ASD can display. Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. The prevalence rate for ASD is 1 in 68 children and rising. Boys are 4 times more likely than girls to develop autism. ASD crosses racial, ethnic and social backgrounds equally. Awareness of this disorder and improved screening methods have contributed to the increase in diagnoses in recent years. Symptoms Symptoms of autism start to appear during the first three years of life. Typically, developing infants are social by nature. They gaze at faces, turn toward voices, grasp a finger and even smile by 2-3 months of age. Most children who develop autism have difficulty engaging in everyday human interactions. Not everyone will experience symptoms with the same severity, but all people with ASD will have symptoms that affect social interactions and relationships. ASD also causes difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication and preoccupation with certain activities. Along with different interests, autistic children generally have different ways of interacting with others. Parents are often the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviors. These behaviors include failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways. Symptoms of autism can include: •Delay in language development, such as not responding to their own name or speaking only in single words, if at all. •Repetitive and routine behaviors, such as walking in a specific pattern or insisting on eating the same meal every day. •Difficulty making eye contact, such as focusing on a person’s mouth when that person is speaking instead of their eyes, as is usual in most young children. •Sensory problems, such as experiencing pain from certain sounds, like a ringing telephone or not reacting to intense cold or pain, certain sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes. •Difficulty interpreting facial expressions, such as misreading or not noticing subtle facial cues, like a smile, wink or grimace, that could help understand the nuances of social communication. •Problems with expressing emotions, such as facial expressions, movements, tone of voice and gestures that are often vague or do not match what is said or felt. •Fixation on parts of objects, such as focusing on a rotating wheel instead of playing with peers. •Absence of pretend play, such as taking a long time to line up toys in a certain way, rather than playing with them. •Difficulty interacting with peers, because they have a difficult time understanding that others have different information, feelings and goals. •Self-harm behavior, such as hitting his head against a wall as a way of expressing disapproval. •Sleep problems, such as falling asleep or staying asleep. Symptoms of autism fall on a continuum. This means that the learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of children with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some children with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives. With a thorough evaluation, doctors can make a diagnosis to help find the best treatment plan for the child. – See more at: Nami National alliance. In this case, the answer is that there are many ways of looking at and describing autism depending upon which lens you use to view this incredibly complex disorder. Autism is a brain-based disorder with onset in childhood that affects a child’s development in the core areas of communication, social interactions and behavior. This is perhaps best captured in the term, neurodevelopmental disorder. Diagnostic criteria for autism are found inThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-IV-TR provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. Tools used to help a provider (both medical doctors and psychologists) make a diagnosis are typically clinical (e.g., patient observation and interview) and psychological (e.g., standardized psychological tests) in nature. A child’s physical health may also be affected by conditions such as seizures, gastrointestinal distress, eating irregularities, sensory challenges, and sleep disturbance. These affect a child’s overall health and well-being and can be viewed as neurobiological. When you get right down to it, our brain is most definitely part of our physiology, no different than other vital organs such as our heart and lungs. So there you have it: the many terms used to describe this multi-faceted disorder continue to provide us with more questions than answers. For now, the diagnostic criteria for autism will continue to be described in the DSM and this disorder should be thought of as a condition that can be described and viewed many different ways. (PsychologyReports)

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