Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that chiefly concerns behavior and social interaction. They symptoms tend to be noticeable as early as the first two years of a child’s life, but it is difficult to diagnose ASD with certainty at that age, and there are several other possible explanations that need to be ruled out first.
As the name suggests, ASD is a spectrum disorder and two individuals with the same diagnosis can be located very far from each other on this spectrum, with one of them experiencing much more severe symptoms than the other.
ASD according to the DSM-5
According to DSM-5, an individual with ASD has:
- Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
- Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
- Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
What is the DSM-5?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), serves as the principal authority for psychiatric diagnoses in the United States.
Signs & Symptoms
In individual with ASD tend to have difficulty with social communication and other forms of interaction. Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours are common. Some people on the spectrum are very skilled when it comes to learning things in detail and remembering information. It is not uncommon for individuals with ASD to be strong visual and auditory learners. Some excell in a specific field, such as music, science or mathematics.
Below is a list with some examples of behaviors often seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Some individuals display just a few, while others display more, depending on individual variations within the spectrum.
- A tendency to not look at people and/or try to hear what they are saying
- Failing to respond, or being overly slow to respond, when the individual’s name is called, or when someone is making other verbal attempts at gaining the individual’s attention
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact in situation rs where eye contact is expected
- Not very interested in pointing out or showing things to others in order to share enjoyment in objects or activities, except for one or a few favorite subjects regarding which the individual happily talks at length
- Talking at length about a favorite subject without giving the other person a chance to respond
- Not noticing when the other person is growing tired of a subject matter in a conversation / monologue
- Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
- Having an unusual tone of voice, especially if robot-like or sing-song
- Having facial expressions, movements and gestures that appear uncoordinated with what is said in the conversation
- Having trouble understanding other peoples’ point of view
- Finding it very difficult to predict other people’s reactions
- Repeating certain words or phrases (echolalia)
- Repeating certain movements
- Getting upset when a routine isn’t adhered to, even if the change is small
- Being unusually sensitive to sensory input such as sounds, touch, temperature, and light. Or the opposite, being less sensitive than the average person to such things.
- Sleep problems
- Having an intense focus on one or a few topics
What causes ASD?
We still do not know what causes ASD.
Some evidence indicate that it is caused by a combination of genetics and the environment.
Examples of factors that are linked to an increased risk of being diagnosed with ASD:
- Having older parents
- Weighing very little at birth
- Having a sibling with ASD
- Having Down syndrome
- Having Fragile X syndrome
- Having Rett syndrome
Is there a cure?
At the time of writing, there is no cure for ASD.
With treatments and services, and individual’s quality of life and ability to function can be improved.