What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by intellectual, social, & behavior deficits. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) Autistic Spectrum Disorder 299.00 (F84.0) notes Asperger’s disorder, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and autistic disorder will be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals on the autism spectrum can have a range of varying symptoms. Key symptoms include speech impairments, stereotypical and repetitive behaviors, and social communication challenges. The severity of symptoms is based on the 3 levels for autism spectrum disorder.
The DSM-5 describes Levels 1 thru 3 as follows:
- Level 3 requires very substantial support
- Level 2 requires substantial support
- Level 1 requiring support
Screening and Diagnosis:
Autism can be detected at 18 months or younger and a diagnosis has been administered as early as age 2. Most children who have autism are diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 4.
Doctors screen and assess a child by development and behavior. A Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation and Developmental Screening Assessment are performed for an ASD diagnosis. Evaluations are done by Child Neurologists, Child Psychologists and Psychiatrists, as well as Developmental Pediatricians who are trained in developmental delays and special needs.
Current statistics according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that 1 in 54 children have been given a diagnosis of autism. Over 15 years ago the prevalence for autism was 1 in 150 children. Autism awareness as well as diagnostic screening procedures has had an impact on the current prevalence.
Scientists have discovered that genetics and environmental risk factors such as maternal immune response are related to autism. In 1977 researchers studied twin development and concluded 80 percent chance that the identical twin would also develop autism. Fraternal twin development corresponded with a 40 percent chance of developing autism.
Early recognition, diagnosis, and intervention are a proven regimen to reduce autism challenges. Many treatments are available such as: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Individual Educational Plan (IEP), Speech & Language, Occupational, Social Skill Development, Music therapy, Play therapy and Art therapy. Children and young adults with autism may encounter such therapies throughout their lifespan.
ABA therapy targets specific behaviors by reinforcing or rewarding certain behaviors while discouraging others. An IEP is an educational plan combining special education and resource class time. There are many different intervention strategies available for a wide variety of symptoms and learning challenges. Knowing and understanding your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations is the first step.