AUTISM SPECTRUM OF DISORDERS

Autism Spectrum of Disorders (ASD) was previously known as the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) because the symptoms of this group of disorders generally start manifesting during the first two years of life. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:

  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that affect the person’s ability to function in school, work, and other areas of life

Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience.

The diagnostic features of ASD can be easy to miss in young children. Looking for possible red flags or early signs may help to find children at risk for ASD, and in need of a diagnostic evaluation. If your child shows some of the following red flags, you should think about getting a consultation done at the earliest:

Social Communication
  • Limited use of gestures such as giving, showing, waving, clapping, pointing, or nodding their head
  • Delayed speech or no social babbling/chatting
  • Makes odd sounds or has an unusual tone of voice
  • Difficulty using eye contact, gestures, and sounds or words all at the same time
  • Little or no pretending or imitating of other people
  • Stopped using words that they used to say
  • Uses another person’s hand as a tool (e.g., putting parent’s hand on a jar for them to open the lid)
Social Interaction
  • Does not look right at people or hard to get them to look at you; lack of eye contact
  • Does not share warm, joyful expressions
  • Does not respond when someone calls their name
  • Does not draw your attention to things or show you things they’re interested in
  • Does not share enjoyment or interests with others
Repetitive Behaviors & Restricted Interests
  • Unusual ways of moving their hands, fingers, or whole body
  • Develops rituals such as lining objects up or repeating things over and over
  • Very focused on or attached to unusual kinds of objects such as strips of cloth, wooden spoons, rocks, vents, or doorstops
  • Excessive interest in particular objects, actions, or activities that interferes with social interaction
  • Unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or looking out of the corner of their eye
  • Over- or under-reaction to certain sounds, textures, or other sensory input

Treatment for ASD should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis. Early treatment for ASD is important because proper care can reduce individuals’ difficulties while helping them learn new skills and make the most of their strengths. The wide range of issues facing people with ASD means that there is no single best treatment for ASD. Working closely with a doctor or health care professional is an important part of finding the right treatment program.

  1. Medication - A doctor may use medication to treat some symptoms that are common with ASD. With medication, a person with ASD may have fewer problems with Irritability, Aggression, Repetitive behavior, Hyperactivity, Attention problems, Anxiety and depression.
  2. Behavioral, Psychological, and Educational Therapy – People with ASD may be referred to doctors who specialize in providing behavioral, psychological, educational, or skill-building interventions. These programs are typically highly structured and intensive and may involve parents, siblings, and other family members. These programs may help people with ASD:
    • Learn life skills necessary to live independently.
    • Reduce challenging behaviors.
    • Increase or build upon strengths.
    • Learn social, communication, and language skills.
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