What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3. Autism spectrum disorder impacts the nervous system. The range and severity of symptoms can vary widely. Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors. Early recognition, as well as behavioral, educational, and family therapies may reduce symptoms and support development and learning.
Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more.
Diagnosis is based on behavior, not cause or mechanism. Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition autism is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction across multiple contexts, as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. These deficits are present in early childhood, typically before age three, and lead to clinically significant functional impairment. Sample symptoms include lack of social or emotional reciprocity, stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language, and persistent preoccupation with unusual objects. The disturbance must not be better accounted for by Rett syndrome, intellectual disability or global developmental delay.
The main goals when treating children with autism are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence. In general, higher IQs are correlated with greater responsiveness to treatment and improved treatment outcomes. No single treatment is best and treatment is typically tailored to the child’s needs. Families and the educational system are the main resources for treatment. Services should be carried out by behavior analysts, special education teachers, speech pathologists, and licensed psychologists.
The development of evidence-based interventions has advanced in recent years. Although many psychosocial interventions have some positive evidence, suggesting that some form of treatment is preferable to no treatment, the methodological quality of systematic reviews of these studies has generally been poor, their clinical results are mostly tentative, and there is little evidence for the relative effectiveness of treatment options. Intensive, sustained special education programs and behavior therapy early in life can help children acquire self-care, communication, and job skills. Special education programs also improve functioning and decrease symptom severity and maladaptive behaviors