Autism Spectrum Disorder: What You Need to Know! (2022)
Do you know someone who has autism or is on the spectrum? Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has become more common in recent years. As a result, you may wonder what that means and how it could affect the people around you. Many people have heard of autism and may have some ideas about what it involves, but there are many different types of autism, and it can be hard to understand what makes someone tick if you aren't used to seeing things from their perspective.
This article covers everything you need to know about ASD so that you can support those around you and interact with them as effectively as possible.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition affecting how people experience the world. People with ASD often cannot understand others, make friends easily, or communicate their needs and feelings effectively. They may have unusual behaviors or special interests and difficulty engaging in different activities. ASD is part of a group of conditions called neurodevelopmental disorders caused by abnormal brain development.
The causes of ASD are not yet fully understood, but studies show that genetics and environment (e.g., infections, toxins, or complications during pregnancy or delivery) may play a role. ASD affects an estimated 1 in 68 children in the United States, but it is 4 times more common among boys than girls. People with ASD usually show symptoms during early childhood and experience them throughout their lives.
What are the Different Types of Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a spectrum condition that affects people in various ways. There is no “one size fits all” solution to managing ASD symptoms, but individuals on the spectrum can all benefit from support and guidance as they go through life. These are the main types of ASD:
Autism: This is the core symptom of ASD and involves difficulties with social skills and communication.
Asperger's syndrome: This is a form of autism that affects males more than females and is characterized by milder symptoms with less speech impairment and a narrower range of interests.
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD): This is another cluster of ASD symptoms that feature milder symptoms.
Childhood disintegrative disorder: is a rare form of ASD that only affects boys, with symptoms appearing after 3 years of age.
Rhett's syndrome: This rare type of ASD is often mild and tends to affect females.
How is ASD Diagnosed?
Although autism is diagnosed 4 times more often in boys than girls, it is impossible to know who will develop autism and who will not. Many of the early signs of autism are subtle and may be mistaken for lack of attentiveness or being “out of touch” with one's surroundings. To diagnose ASD, specialists will use a combination of your child's developmental history and current skills and abilities to determine whether they are on the autism spectrum or not.
They will likely observe your child in different contexts and interview you about your child's development to try and pinpoint when symptoms started to appear or intensify. Specialists may also ask you about your family history and your child's health during pregnancy and birth to rule out other potential causes for developmental delays. They may also suggest genetic testing if your child's signs of ASD are very apparent.
What are the Symptoms of ASD?
The symptoms of ASD vary widely and may be mild or severe, but they often include difficulties with social skills, communication, and imagination.
Social skills and communication: People with ASD may struggle to understand other people's feelings and emotions, forming friendships that are often one-sided and short-lived. They may also be unable to start or maintain a conversation, take turns playing with others, or use appropriate non-verbal gestures such as eye contact.
Interests and imagination: Children with ASD are often fascinated by certain objects or activities and have limited or no interest in imaginative or creative play. They may repeat the same actions or repeated sounds, such as spinning wheels, flicking switches, or saying the same phrase.
Treatment and Medication Options for Autism
As with the symptoms of autism, the best treatment for ASD is likely to be different for each person. But some core principles are likely to be helpful for most people on the spectrum.
A positive approach: You can't “cure” autism, but you can help people with ASD lead productive, fulfilling lives. Treating ASD is often as much about managing symptoms as it is about treating the condition itself.
Education and support: People with ASD are often highly intelligent but are easily frustrated, overwhelmed, and bored. It's important to understand their needs and help them to build their skills.
Limit repetitive behavior: Repetitive behavior can be a symptom of ASD but can also become a compulsion. It's important to try and find a balance between helping your child to manage their condition and stopping them from being trapped by OCD-like behaviors.
Tips to Help Those with ASD
- Be patient: It's important to understand that the person with ASD is not being rude. They are just struggling to make sense of the world around them.
- Use visual clues: Many people with ASD are visual learners and respond well to images, charts, and graphs. Explaining a concept like a “thermostat” might be easier to understand when it's depicted as a series of dials.
- Break tasks into smaller pieces: People with ASD often struggle with follow-through and find it difficult to transition from one activity to another. It's often easier if you break the task down into smaller steps, with frequent breaks in between.
- Include them in the conversation: People on the spectrum often don't make eye contact or participate, but this doesn't mean they are bored or disinterested. Make an effort to involve them in the discussion, and don't be afraid to repeat yourself.
- Take them to an appointment: People with ASD must understand what's happening to them and their treatment options. Taking them to an appointment with a specialist and allowing them to ask questions and understand their diagnosis can be hugely beneficial.
- Help them to make friends: It can be difficult for people with ASD to make friends and form relationships. Help your child find clubs or activities they enjoy and encourage them to make the first move when it comes to making friends.
- Be patient: ASD is a lifelong condition, and it will take time for your child to develop and show signs of improvement. Be patient, supportive, and understanding, and you will be able to help them to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
Conclusion: Prevention of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex condition that affects people in various ways. There is no “one size fits all” solution to managing ASD symptoms, but individuals on the spectrum can all benefit from support and guidance as they go through life. ASD is a lifelong condition that is often diagnosed during early childhood and experienced throughout a person's life.
The causes of ASD are not yet fully understood, but studies show that both genetics and environment (e.g., infections, toxins, or complications during pregnancy or delivery) may play a role. There are many different types of autism, and it is impossible to know who will develop the condition and who won't. It's important to be patient and supportive of those around you who are on the spectrum.