What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviour.
What is a “spectrum disorder” in terms of autism?
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects each individual differently. There are however some characteristics that are consistent with ASD.
What are the signs of autism?
- Speech may be absent or delayed
- Language may be unusual or repetitive and the child may mimic you (echolalia)
- May take part in selective hearing, i.e. may behave deaf when being spoken to, but alert to other sounds
- Conversations may be difficult for them to initiate or sustain
- Social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures are difficult to use and/or understand
- Relationships with peers may be difficult to develop or maintain
- Sharing interest during interactions by pointing or nodding may be absent or delayed
- May show preoccupation with one, or a few, movements, objects or speech patterns
- Routines or rituals may be rigidly followed and changes to these routines can cause distress
- May use self-stimulatory behaviours such as hand-flapping, rocking or spinning repeatedly. In some cases these behaviours may be self-injurious.
- Temper tantrums may occur without warning
What is the difference between DSM-IV and DSM-V?
The diagnostic and statistical manual guides the diagnostic practices of Psychiatrists and Psychologists in North America. In 2013 the DSM-IV gave way to the DSM-V, with notable changes to the classification of autism. In the past, individuals could be diagnosed with four separate disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, or the “catch-all” diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
Changes were brought in to help make the autism diagnosis more consistent and, in part, more stringent. While autism was once classified under three categories: Communication, socialization and behaviour (repertoire of interest), we now have one category representing social communication and another for restrictive or repetitive behaviours. Another significant change is the addition of a diagnosis called social pragmatic disorder, which is not considered on the autism spectrum, but contains elements that look quite similar to the category of social communication.
What are the main difference for autism therapy programs for children and adults?
As individuals grow, their behaviours evolve and so do their needs. In childhood the focus is on maintaining a structured environment, with a 1:1 therapy focus for 40 hours (ideally) a week in order to build socially significant skills that are meaningful for the individual. It is all a matter of building stepping-stones and reacting to the changes that come with growing up.
Where do I get help?
Every individual on the autism spectrum is different. To speak with one of our information officers contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-437-0880.