Charles Darwin, Dan Aykroyd, Mozart, all these individuals are notable names in history due to their accomplishments in life. They all are famous, adored by their fans and peers, and all suffer from the same condition that affects 1 in 68 American children. They all have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that leads to difficulty with social interactions and communications. It is often characterized by a child’s non-interest or difficulty with social interactions, restricted interest, and repetitive behaviors. Unfortunately, we have found neither cause or cure for this disorder but we are narrowing down risk factors to things such as: having a sibling with ASD, having older parents, very low birth weight, and certain genetic predispositions (Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome). These risk factors have given us insight on diagnosing ASD over the years and now we have a two stage diagnosing process which consist of a general developmental screening and a second more in depth screening should the child display any symptoms in stage one. The second screening process is conducted with at least 4 different child specialists such as a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, and speech language pathologist. All these professionals collaborate with their results to paint the most accurate picture of diagnosis for the child so they may get the most effective treatments.
Treatment for ASD usually begins as soon as possible after diagnosis with the primary form being behavioral, psychological, and educational therapy. If symptoms are severe enough, medications will be prescribed. Research has found that the best way to treat is a combination of medication and these therapies. The therapies focus on reducing challenging behaviors, increasing strengths, learning social, communication, language skills, and life-skills necessary for independent living. Depending on severity of the condition with proper treatment people with ASD can still be functional adults and not just independent but thriving productive citizens, much like the examples I stated in the beginning.
Thought to be a child’s disorder, over the last 30 years we have begun to diagnose adults as well. Adults can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms sometimes overlap with other symptoms of mental health disorder such as anxiety or attention deficit disorder. As an adult receiving a correct diagnosis can be very helpful by giving closure to past difficulties, identify their strengths and obtain the RIGHT kind of help.
Communicating with a person with ASD may be difficult at times and may be frustrating but I encourage you seek more information about it by visiting the Autism society website at https://www.autism-society.org/ . On the website there are many different resources to give you more insight into the disorder and there is even a page that gives you information on Autism awareness events that are going on in your area so YOU can get involved and make a difference. Together, we can bring some order to world of Autism Spectrum Disorder.