Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders with a broad range of patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in individuals with autism.

Autism occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all economic backgrounds. However, boys are more likely to develop autism than girls. Autism is a lifelong disorder, and while individuals can grow, learn and change over time, they will not “outgrow” an autism diagnosis as they get older, and there is no cure.

Common Signs of ASD

Individuals with autism may show a range of symptoms and characteristics, but the two main areas that individuals show impairments are in social interaction and communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors.

Social Interaction and Communication

Individuals with autism may find social interactions difficult, including the back- and forth- nature of communication. Individuals with autism may not respond to their names, avoid eye contact, have difficulty understanding how to engage with others, and may prefer to be alone. They may also have trouble understanding other people’s feelings, nonverbal social cues, or facial expressions, and may also have trouble regulating or understanding their own emotions, nonverbal communication and facial expressions.

Communication abilities of individuals with autism also vary widely. Some individuals may have no spoken language at all, while others may be fluent but awkward and inappropriate. Some individuals may have delayed speech and language skills, repeat phrases, or give unrelated answers to questions. Some individuals may use assistive, or augmentive communication methods to communicate.

Restrictive and Repetitive Behaviors

Many individuals with autism engage in repetitive movements or unusual behaviors such as flapping their arms, rocking from side to side, or spinning. They may become preoccupied with parts of objects, or specific subjects. Many individuals with autism thrive on routine and structure, and unexpected changes to those routines or structure can be challenging. Additionally, some individuals struggle with managing sensory input from their environment such as sounds, lights, textures, or smells and can become overstimulated and overwhelmed.