So you’re a parent and you want to know more about Autistic Disorder. Great! That is until you discover the term “autism” can mean so many different things to different people. And what autism looks like in one person looks vastly different in another person.
With so many nuances to the disorder, understanding autism can be challenging. So what exactly is autism? And what are the signs? Well here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you get a grasp on it.
Autism is a disorder that affects three main areas of one’s abilities. These include social interaction, communication, and repetitive or restrictive behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Challenges with Communication
Communication is one of the challenges that individuals with autism often struggle with. To be more specific, we are referring to spoken language. Delayed speech is one of the common symptoms. This could include not speaking at all or the use of limited words. For some, their speech can be flat and very non-expressive. Often individuals with autistic disorder prefer using one-word answers instead of full sentences. Additionally, repeating words or phrases is another frequent tendency.
Challenges with Social Skills
Another challenge for individuals with autism is social skills. Poor eye contact is a common symptom here. In general, another challenge here is body language. Individuals with autism often don’t use much facial expression or gestures when talking. For many, they will play next to another person but will prefer to play alone. They often have little interest in socializing with people their own age. Some also have a poor concept of personal space.
Challenges with Repetitive or Restrictive Behaviors
Repetitive behaviors would also take on many forms. Some typical behaviors include repeatedly flapping or tapping items with the hand. Other fine-motor behaviors like finger-picking also fit into this category. Body-rocking is also a common behavior. Restrictive behaviors refer to things done with little to no variation. This could include having to do activities in the same order or with the same people.
Change in the diagnosis of Autistic Disorder
In 2013, doctors changed the way that they went about classifying autism.
Before then, autism was one of several similar disorders that we’re all under one umbrella.
Many of these disorders had closely resembling traits. As a result, it was challenging to determine when one disorder ended and the other began.
The release of the most recent diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, occurred in 2013. With its release, the change in classification became official. Autism Spectrum Disorder would be the diagnosis for any individual displaying autistic-like characteristics.
With a host of characteristics now included under the ASD label, the spectrum was very broad. To differentiate the severity of each individual’s condition, the manual specified 3 levels.
Level 1 refers to individuals whose condition was mild. This means they required lesser supports. Level 2 described the individual whose condition was moderate. As a result, individuals here needed more support. Level 3 was the most severe. Individuals here would need intensive support.
The manual’s classification of disorders has simplified the diagnosis process. This now enables various supports to be better tailored to the individual’s needs.
The main thing to grasp here is that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects a person in three main areas. These include social skills, communication, and restrictive or repetitive behaviors. Though the spectrum is broad, there are different levels of severity. Getting a professional diagnosis will accurately assess the severity of your child’s condition. This puts you in the best position to get the help you need.
Please visit us again for more information, help, and tips on autism!
A.D. Daisley holds a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida and has been working in the field as a Behavior Analyst since 2005. He has provided services to children and adults with varying diagnoses such as autism, mental retardation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His scope of experience also includes coordinating therapy to individuals and families in conjunction with other supports including School Teachers, Adult Day Training Facility Staff (ADT’s) and Speech/Occupational therapists. He is the Director and Behavior Analyst at Alternative Outcomes since 2007. A.D is also the Director of Creátre, a non-profit organization that uses the arts for the purpose of skill training, outreach and to display community leadership.