Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be a common or well-known neurodevelopmental disorder, but it can also be complex and challenging to understand. There are several symptoms to consider and many types in the spectrum to differentiate. However, by understanding what ASD is, we may be more sensitive and perceptive toward others with the disorder and know the right ways to address their needs.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD, is an umbrella term that describes neurodevelopmental conditions that challenge communicating, socializing, and behaving in various circumstances. ASD is a lifelong condition and its symptoms are felt and experienced differently. ASD is not exclusive to a single ethnicity or economic background (Cherney & Seladi-Schulman, 2021; Hoffman, 2016). Such a condition can be found in people regardless of their intersectionality’s varying levels of privileges and/or oppressions.
Autism Spectrum Disorder’s Signs and Symptoms
It is important to bear in mind that every person is different; the manifestations of autism also vary for each individual that has Autism Spectrum Disorder (Cherry, 2020). These are some of the signs to look out for to seek professional evaluation:
Lack of happy expressions at 6 months
No babbling at 1 year old
Not reaching for objects at 1 year old
Lack of single-word speech at 16 months
No two-word phrases at 2 years old
Lack of response when the child is being called
Loss of speech or social skills
The general symptoms of ASD are repetitive behaviors, limited interests, and problems with interaction (Cherry, 2020). Symptoms usually start to be apparent at the time when a child turns 3 years old, and a person with ASD may show several of these symptoms:
Trouble making eye contact
Difficulty participating in conversations
Extreme distress when routines are disrupted, even for just a bit
Facial expressions that do not match verbal communication
Intense interest in certain topics
Lack of enjoyment in activities
Problems expressing feelings or needs in verbal communication
Not participating in “pretend” play
Slow or no response to people trying to gain their attention
Sensitive to sensory stimuli like taste, light, and smell
Stimming behaviors (e.g., self-stimulating, repetitive actions like rocking, walking on toes, or flapping hands)
Trouble putting themselves in another person’s perspective
Conditions and Types
Autism Spectrum Disorder is now used as an umbrella term for different forms of autism, yet it is also vital to know the older terms that some people use:
Asperger’s Syndrome. A person with Asperger’s may be seen as a genius and can manage their daily life. They can be focused on subjects that are interesting to them, and find it challenging to participate in social interactions;
Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specifided (PDD-NOS). This refers to people with autism that is more severe than Asperger’s but not as severe as people who have Autistic Disorder;
Autistic Disorder. It includes a similar set of symptoms with the ones mentioned but its level of intensity is higher; and
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. This is the most severe and rarest of the spectrum. People with this condition develop normally and then lose social, language, and mental skills between ages 2 and 4 years old (Hoffman, 2016).
ASD Types refer to a person’s functional level, and these are:
Level 1: High functioning. They need minimal support to live their daily life;
Level 2: Moderately severe. Their social difficulties are more apparent compared to people with ASD that has Level 1 type. They may also be challenged in communicating, thus needing more support; and
Level 3: Severe. People with Level 3 ASD have symptoms that interfere with their capacity to live independently. They do not communicate verbally, struggle with changes, have repetitive behaviors, and may be sensitive to sensory stimuli (Cherry, 2020).
Diagnosis and Treatments
Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder are noticed by parents, caregivers, teachers, and doctors. Being informed of the signs and symptoms of ASD will allow a person to get early screening and evaluation from mental health professionals, which speeds up diagnosis and interventions, making their quality of life better.
Although people with ASD experience their symptoms differently, the general course of treatment would include medications and therapy. Specific medications for ASD include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety medications, and anticonvulsants. The usual approach to therapy is applied behavior analysis (ABA) which makes use of desirable behaviors and skills reinforcements. Other therapies for ASD include Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Developmental and individual differences relationship therapy (a.k.a., floortime), early intensive behavioral intervention, pivotal response therapy, relationship development intervention, and verbal behavior therapy (Cherry, 2020).
All human beings have the right to quality of life, which means that we have the right to optimize our overall well-being. Despite this right, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder have higher rates of unmet healthcare needs (World Health Organization, 2022). It is important to be informed about the signs, symptoms, conditions, and types of ASD not only because early diagnosis and treatment would be the best, but also exercising basic human rights, which would further promote the accessibility of mental health care services for all.
We at Fidecita wish you the best in your mental health endeavors. Click here to know more about Fidecita HR Advisory’s Mental Health Care services.
Cherney, K. & Seladi-Schulman, J. (2021, November 3). Everything You Need to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/autism#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
Cherry, K. (2020, October 7). What Is Autism?. Verywell mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/autism-definition-symptoms-traits-causes-treatment-5080048
Hoffman, M. (2016, December 30). What Are the Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders?. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/autism-spectrum-disorders
World Health Organization. (2022, March 30). Autism. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders