Aspergers Syndrome is the highest functioning part of the autism spectrum.
Autism Signs and Symptoms
Autism spectrum disorders vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset, and the presence of various features, such as mental retardation and specific language delay. The manifestations of autistic spectrum disorders can differ considerably across individuals and within an individual over time. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities, especially in social deficits, there is no single behavior that is always typical of autism or any of the autistic spectrum disorders and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual from diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.
How can I tell if someone I know has autism?
Individuals with autism interact with others differently. They often appear to live a life of isolation, have difficulty understanding and expressing emotion, and may express attachment in a different manner.
Approximately 40 percent of individuals with autism do not speak. Others have echolalia, the repeating of words or phrases over and over. Persons with autism often have difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone and volume).
Individuals with autism typically have difficulty relating to objects and events and a great need for “sameness” which makes them upset if objects in their environment or time schedules change. Children with autism may not “play” with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated to specific objects.
Persons with autism may greatly overreact to sensory stimuli that they see, hear, touch, feel or taste. They may also not react at all to various stimuli from the environment.
Children with autism often have a different rate of development especially in the areas of communication, social and cognitive skills. In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate. Sometimes skills will appear in children with autism at the expected rate or time and then disappear.
Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a lifelong disability that is generally diagnosed before the age of three years old. However, often children are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents consider the following questions:
Does your child…
- Not speak as well as his or her peers?
- Have poor eye contact?
- Not respond selectively to his or her name?
- Act as if he or she is in his or her own world?
- Seem to “tune others out?”
- Not have a social smile?
- Seem unable to tell you what he or she wants, preferring to lead you by the hand or get desired objects on his or her own, even at risk of danger?
- Have difficulty following simple commands?
- Not bring things to you simply to “show” you?
- Not point to interesting objects to direct your attention to objects or events of interest?
- Have unusually long and severe temper tantrums?
- Have repetitive, odd, or stereotypic behaviors?
- Show an unusual attachment to inanimate objects, especially hard ones (e.g., flashlight or a chain vs. teddy bear or blanket)?
- Prefer to play alone?
- Demonstrate an inability to play with toys in the typical way?
- Not engage in pretend play (if older than 2 years)?
What to do if you think your child has autism
Autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees – this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. Autism is a lifelong condition, but early action can make it less devastating.