Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological disorder that usually appears in the first three years of life. It commonly impacts a person’s ability in social interactions and can be accompanied by an assortment of learning problems (though, not always). ASD varies in its severity, and some people develop serious language and communication problems (prior to three years old).
The severity of ASD symptoms can change over time, and people may have increased progress—or severe regression—at the different stages of development.
Children who may be at risk of having ASD don’t point, reach or wave by one year of age; don’t use phrases consisting of two words by two years old; don’t show a big smile or other warm expressions of happiness by six months or after; don’t share sounds, smiles or other expressions by nine-months-old; don’t babble by one year; and don’t use words by 16 months.
DSM-5 Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, the following are the criteria in diagnosing ASD.
- Shortcoming in being able to hold a continuing conversation, spanning from abnormal social approach and disclosing things about himself to being able to convey his feelings.
- Inadequacies in communicating, including facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture in social interaction. Face shows no signs of communication.
- Insufficiencies in developing, continuing and comprehending relationships—problems with adjusting to behaviors that fit social situations, hard time making up games, stories and other activities with others, no interest in being sociable, no motivation to make friends.
Restricted, repeated ways of acting, hobbies (a minimum of two):
- Repeatedly stacking up books or other items, flipping objects.
- Insists on everything being the same, inflexible with routines or ritual patterns (serious distress at little changes, problems making changes, strict pattern of thought, following the identical path/walkway/direction without changing, or insists on eating the same foods each day).
- Dedicated to certain things to the extent that it’s excessive (very serious attachment or overly interested in items that are unusual, interests are confined).
- Seemingly indifferent to pain and temperature, unfavorable response to some noises and how some things feel, exaggerated amount of sniffing or feeling items, strong interest in visuals.
Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Early treatment for ASD, as well as proper care, can decrease the individual’s difficulties while helping him to learn new skills. A wide range of issues face people with ASD, meaning there’s not one best treatment for it. It’s vital to work with a health care professional to identify the appropriate treatment. The following are a few types of treatment.
- Behavioral training and management is used when the individual displays behavior that is considered good and is given a reward of some type in order for him to continue acting this way.
- Specialized therapies—Sensory Integration Therapy, as well as other therapies, are critical for the individual’s treatment program.
- Occupational Therapy teaches skills that help the individual live as independently as possible. These skills may include dressing, bathing, eating and relating to others.
- Sensory Integration Therapy helps the person cope with sensory information, such as signs, sounds and smells. It may help an individual who is bothered by certain sounds or doesn’t like to be touched.
- If there’s an autism group in the community, it may help to better inform/educate the parents. It can be a great support system, where individuals with the same experiences can share their stories and not feel as isolated.
- The Picture Exchange Communication System uses picture symbols to teach communication skills. The person learns how to use picture symbols to ask and answer questions, as well as to have a conversation.
Well-Known People who Have Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Alexis Wineman went from Miss Montana to Miss America in 2014, which marked the first time in the history of the pageant that a woman with ASD was crowned. Wineman said she challenged herself to enter the competition, because it seemed like the peak of her own personal Mount Everest. She added that it’s kind of ironic that a girl who was told she was different and considered an outcast by many won the nation’s biggest beauty pageant.
- James Durbin, the American Idol alumni from season 10 released the single, “Parachute,” a few years ago. He was first diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Tourette syndrome at age 10. At the same time he found out about the diagnoses, he was given a hand-me-down guitar and a cheap tuner. He said music is like medicine and can be a benefit for anyone no matter what genre it is.
“There’s just so much you can learn,” said Durbin. “It’s all about focus and for me, not only on the Autism Spectrum but also the Tourette’s syndrome, focus was something I needed help with. Music is my focus.”
Music has always remained an important part of Durbin’s life. When he was bullied growing up, it didn’t matter how bad of a day it was at school—he could go home and create his own world within the music.
- Daryl Hannah told People magazine a few years ago that she was diagnosed with Autism as a child and how it added to a fear of fame as an adult. The fear resulted in Hannah’s retreat from her life in the spotlight, because she’s never felt comfortable being the center of attention. In fact, she said it “freaked her out.”