Autism Spectrum Disorder

Characteristics

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that includes several disorders that used to be diagnosed separately such as: Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified, and Asperger’s Syndrome. ASD affects how people communicate, interact, behave, and learn. The condition tends to begin before age three and will normally continue throughout a person’s lifetime.

It is possible for the symptoms to improve over time, however. Many parents of children with ASD have first concerns between 12 and 24 months. Generally, autism symptoms in toddlers fall into three main categories: social impairment, communication, and repetitive or “stereotyped behaviors”. Young children are normally very interested in their surroundings and show interest in social behavior. Upon reaching their first birthday, toddlers tend to interact with others by making eye contact, copying words and actions, and using gestures. Children with ASD, however, have difficulty interacting with others. They may not be interested in other people, be willing to take turns and share, or have difficulties discussing or showing emotion.

According to the CDC and the National Institute for Mental Health, children with autism express the following characteristics:

  • Have unusual facial expressions
  • Do not respond typically when others exhibit anger, distress, or affection
  • Do not try to share enjoyment of toys and activities by showing things to others
  • Prefer to play alone
  • Do not understand personal space boundaries
  • Have difficulty understanding people’s feelings or portraying their own feelings

Not all children will have all of these symptoms all of the time and children will have varying levels of severity. For example, some children may have certain social or communicational behaviors that severely impact their ability to function, while other children may have better language abilities and are able to function at a higher level.

Next Steps

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