An Introduction to Autism (part 1 in a series)
So you’re here and want to know “what is autism”? You may be concerned about symptoms in a friend’s child. You may have a recently diagnosed family member. Maybe you are already deeply involved in the daily struggle and are looking for answers or understanding.
My goal is to share my thoughts on Autism and some of my personal experiences to help you gain a little more awareness of the condition. In order to do this, we must first address the complicated and sometimes boring clinical pieces.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which now encompasses a range of conditions. These conditions are largely characterized by deficits in social skills including speech and nonverbal communication (such as body language).
Signs of ASD are usually seen in early childhood during the toddler years. The more commonly known red flags are delayed speech or difficulty with eye contact. Children may also exhibit excessive reactions to certain sounds, textures, or other sensory input.
Autism is mysterious as it affects each individual differently. While one person may have hypersensitivity to sounds, another person may never experience sensitivity to sound. Furthermore, an individual may only have sound sensitivity under certain conditions.
Range of Autism Spectrum Disorder
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the 5th edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which combined the previous classifications including autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified.
The change in the DSM in 2013 combined several separate conditions under the blanket category of Autism. This has caused some confusion in the autism community as individuals diagnosed prior to 2013 may refer to their condition under the original diagnosis (ex: Asperger’s) while an individual displaying the same characteristics today will refer to the general term Autism.
This information is not meant to diagnose, prevent, or treat and condition. This information is based on personal experience as a parent. I am not a qualified healthcare professional. Please remember to consult with your personal pediatrician, physician or other healthcare professional to establish a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Things you should know about Autism
The earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the prognosis.
Autism can be linked to other health problems- anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, phobias, and GI disorders are common.
Adults with autism may be able to perform job duties well.
Children with autism may seem socially distant but they still can develop feelings for family and friends.
People with autism tend to process sensory input differently.
Behavioral intervention helps.
There are several great resources available to learn more about autism, symptoms, diagnosis, and education. Organizations seem to be providing plenty of resources to make the general public aware of the characteristics. If you are looking for more detailed information, please check out any of these sites below.
“What is Autism?” will continue as a short series of posts. Autism is different for each individual and thus different for each family. This series seeks to give you a peek into the everyday life of those struggling with or conquering the diagnosis.