Autism is a lifelong neurological disorder that affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with other people, and communicates.
It is often referred to as a “spectrum” disorder, meaning the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations and level of severity. Spectrum Disorders, Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), are currently diagnosed in approximately 1 out of every 88 individuals (CDC 2012). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.
There is no single, specific known cause of autism. In many families there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities – which suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorder – although no single gene has been directly linked to autism.
Autism is treatable. Early diagnosis, intervention, and a system of support are key for the best quality of life.
Some children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrate a delay early in life while others appear to develop typically until the age of 18-30 months, when parents may notice delays or regression in language, play, or social interaction.
The following are characteristics frequently observed in people with autism:
Communication : Language develops slowly or not at all. May use sounds or echolalia (mimicking words and phrases), may communicate with gestures or behaviors instead of words. OR, language is advanced and for their age – children with Asperger Syndrome often display a “Little Professor” manner of speaking, and older children and adults may have a stilted manner of speech. May have trouble taking turns in conversation, or dominates conversation with their area of interest.
Sensory : May be unusally sensitive (hyper-sensitive) or notably insensitive (hypo-sensitive) to sounds, textures, tastes, touch, and sights. May cover the ears or become distressed by sounds and light, may eat a very limited range of food, OR may seem unaware of personal space or seem unaware of surroundings or what is going on around them.
Social : May seem more comfortable alone rather than with others. May not respond to his/her name, but responds to other sounds. May show lack of appropriate eye contact, may seem unaware of others or treat others as objects, may prefer parallel play (not engaging with others but simply playing next to others) rather than interactive play. May show limited understanding of social cues and/or personal space.
Behavior : May be overactive or very passive. May not respond to or may object to being picked up or cuddled. May perseverate (show an obsessive interest in a single item, idea or person). May display a lack of sense of danger, show aggression to others or self. May be resistant or object to changes in routine.
Play : May lack spontaneous or imaginative play, may not initiate pretend games, may prefer to use toys in odd ways, such as lining them up, or spinning the wheels on toy cars instead of pretending to drive them. May play with odd objects instead of conventional toys.
“Special Interests :” Some autistics may display great interest and/or talent in one area. It is commonly believed that all persons with autism have a savant skill or “genius” in an area, but such savant skills are extremely rare. More often, persons with autism have a “special interest,” which can include obsession with unusual interests or items, such as string, fans, or train schedules.
Individuals with autism usually exhibit many, but not necessary all, of the traits listed below. These symptoms can range form mild to severe and may vary in intensity from symptom to symptom. In addition, the behavior usually occurs across many different situations and is consistently inappropriate for the child’s age.
Disclaimer: Please note this symptom list is not a substitute for a full-scale diagnostic assessment. Contact us for where in this area to go for an assessment.
Remember, this is a journey and we are here to support you.