What is autism spectrum disorder and what are the characteristics associated with it?
The word “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” It describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction. In other words, they become an “isolated self.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. This condition is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the CDC, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today. More boys than girls are affected with Autism by a ratio of 4:1.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by three core deficits:
- Impairment in social interaction
- Impairment in communication
- Repetitive and stereotyped patterns to behavior and interest
Some of the characteristics include:
- Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Persistent preference for solitude
- Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
- Delayed language development
- Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
- Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Restricted interests
- Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
- Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” ~ Dr. Stephen Shore