“Autism is a condition affecting the processing, integrating and organization of information that significantly impacts communication, social interaction, functional skills and educational performance. There are many manifestations and degrees of severity within the autism spectrum.” Well, what does that mean? Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are an umbrella of different conditions that share similar objective symptoms, which are symptoms that can be seen by outside observation. The most well-known, called simply Autism and typified by Dustin Hoffman’s character in the film Rain Man, was first identified in the 1940s. Others in the spectrum are PDD-NOS, Asperger’s Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism and many others. All share three main categories of symptoms in varying degrees: Social Interaction, Communication and Patterns of Behavior, Interests or Activity.
The main indicators are as follows:
1. Social Interaction
- Lack of eye contact
- Difficulty forming friendships with peers
- Difficulty sharing enjoyment or accomplishments with others
- Difficulty sharing emotions socially
- Speech delay and/or reduction, absence or loss of spoken language
- No attempt to replace speech with another method of communicating
- Difficulty conversing with people
- Repetition of words without meaning (a.k.a. Echolalia)
- Lack of imaginative play
3. Patterns of Behavior, Interests or Activity
- Intense preoccupation with particular activities
- Strong need for consistent routines
- Repetitive movements such as flapping, spinning, rocking, or lining up toys
- Intense preoccupation with parts of a whole such as spinning the wheels of a car and ignoring the rest of the toy
Generally, the number and intensity of the items in the above checklist determine which of the many conditions in the ASD a child has. It’s a difficult thing to do but is very important as different disorders respond to different treatments or types of specially designed education.
One of the weird things about ASD is how many more cases of it there are today vs. just a few years ago. It appears to be an epidemic since the 1990s. But nobody is sure if the increase is due to better diagnosis and awareness or if there is another explanation. Other theories include the use of mercury in vaccinations and enviromental causes.
Here are some links with more information about ASD: