Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns.
Until recently, experts talked about different types of autism, such as autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). But now they are all called “autism spectrum disorder”
Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder fall into three categories;
- Social interaction and communication problems – including difficulties in normal back-and-forth conversation, reduced sharing of interests or emotions, challenges in understanding or responding to social cues such as eye contact and facial expressions, deficits in developing/maintaining/understanding relationships and others.
- Difficulty relating to people, things and events – including trouble making friends and interacting with people, difficulty reading facial expressions and not making eye contact.
- Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests or activities – hand-flapping and toe-walking, playing with toys in an uncommon way (such as using odd patterns or pitches in speaking or “scripting” from favorite shows), having significant need for a predictable routine or structure, exhibiting intense interests in activities that are uncommon for a similarly aged child, experiencing the sensory aspects of the world in an unusual or extreme way (such as indifference to pain/temperature, excessive smelling/touching of objects, fascination with lights and movement, being overwhelmed with loud noises, etc), and others.
Treatment efforts are generally individualized, and can include behavioural therapy and the teaching of coping skills. Medications may be used to help improve symptoms. Evidence to support use of the medications, however , is not very strong.
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