These days, most people have at least heard of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The term comes up often in discussions of the need for respite care by parents. But what a lot of people are not aware of is that ASD is not just one disorder.
The name itself has the word spectrum inside it which according to dictionary.com means “to classify something in terms of a scale between two (or more) extreme or opposite points.”
The different specific diagnoses’ of ASDs according to jhsph.edu (John Hopkins School of Public Health) are
“Autistic Disorder (AD) the best-described and most severe of these
Pervasive Developmental Disability – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.”
ASD and PDD are the most general terms used, according to the Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology and Johns Hopkins, and they are diagnostic categories that all five diagnoses’ fit under. These organizations state that they prefer ASD over PDD because it emphasizes the common “autism-like” features of all of these specific diagnoses and, at the same time reflects the wide variation in the manner and severity that individuals are affected.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, three areas are affected when a person has an ASD: social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or interests. “There are no definitive biologic signs or symptoms of ASD and it is diagnosed only based on careful observation/assessment of behavior and knowledge of the individual’s developmental history. There is no medical test that can diagnose ASD.”
Therefore many children can get misdiagnosed at young ages (like three or four) because social and communication behavior can vary while young (some learn quicker than others and so on).
“ASD affects persons of any race, socioeconomic status, and gender, although it is more prevalent in boys than in girls – for example, there are 4 boys for every 1 girl with autistic disorder,” according to jhsph.edu.
AD (Autistic Disorder) is a neurological and developmental disorder and is usually diagnosed before the age of five. According to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin “A child with autism appears to live in his or her own world, showing little interest in others and a lack of social awareness.” They also explain how routine and repetition (even of odd behaviors) is often the focus of a child with autism (AD). People with AD, especially children, can resist making new relationships due to social and communication complications (because of their disorder) and usually display repetitive physical movements (shaking legs, flapping arms and so on). Some symptoms include “not making eye contact, delayed or never developed language, echolalia (echoes), has and needs rituals, becomes preoccupied with movements, lights or other distractions, dislike of physical comfort or touching” and many more.
In future blogs, we will touch upon each of the five different disorders under the category of AS to increase awareness and understanding both of the person diagnosed and those who care for him or her. Always consult a children’s physician for diagnosis of any of the ASDs.