A patient experiences developmental delays in Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD, that affect a variety of things including a person’s behaviors, ability to communicate, and social interactions with others. ASD, as a spectrum disorder, encompasses persons with a wide variety of symptoms of different intensity.
You cannot outgrow ASD, since it is a chronic disorder, and there is no cure currently. However, patients can move beyond certain stumbling blocks in their development and growth and learn coping strategies for dealing with various symptoms.
The Different Types of Autism
What were once considered separate conditions– PDD-NOS, Asperger’s, and autistic disorder– are now all considered parts of the Autism spectrum. Each of these former diagnoses now fall under the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, an umbrella diagnosis that encompasses a very wide range of individuals and symptoms.
Those formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s fall on the higher functioning end of the spectrum, while those formerly diagnosed with Autistic Disorder have more severe symptoms and those once diagnosed with PDD-NOS rest somewhere near the middle of the two.
Autism Symptoms in Different Age Groups
Children can start showing significant ASD signs around 2 or 3. Many people have the erroneous idea that if children have ASD they stop developing. These kids are still still evolving, progressing and developing, but just at different speeds and in different ways than their peers. The effects of ASD can also alter over time. If parents have questions about ASD, they need to know what to look for. The following are symptoms of ASD by age group.
Signs of Autism in Babies
Diagnosing ASD in babies is not recommended, but there are signs that can begin to show in infancy, including:
- Having no reaction to their own name by 12 months
- Poor eye contact with others
- Poor nonverbal communication
- No pretend play
- Hand flapping
- Rocking back and forth
- Not pointing at things if they want them
A baby may exhibit some of these traits but then begin developing typically. Most experts agree that reliable signs of ASD only begin to appear around the ages of 2 or 3.
Symptoms of Autism in Toddlers
ASD symptoms in toddlers can include:
- Speech delays or difficulties
- No speech at all
- Hand flapping
- Walking on tippy toes
- Not making eye contact
- Not engaging in interactive play with others
- Fixation on one thing or toy
- Not using hand gestures or nonverbal cues
- Obsessing over routine
- Reacting negatively to any change in routine
- No fear
- Excessive anxiety
- Easily overstimulated or triggered by sounds, smells or textures
EVery child with ASD is unique and symptoms can vary from one person to the next. Diagnosis requires assessment by a trained mental health professional in a clinical setting.
Adult Autism Symptoms
Until mental health professionals began to gain a better understanding of ASD, many went undiagnosed through childhood and into adulthood. This is true, especially, with those who have what was once called Aspergers.
Adult signs of ASD can include:
- Bad at reading social cues
- An inability to relate to others
- Flat affect even when in a highly emotional situation
- Fixation on only one or two favorite topics
- Fixation on complex detailed topics
- Poor emotional regulation, especially in the face of change
- Adhering to strict routines
- Easily overstimulated by noise, touch, taste, etc.
- Little to no skill at interpreting jokes or figurative language
Treatment for ASD
Experts have not yet developed a cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are, however, a number of interventions that patients can benefit from, learning ways in which to cope with the symptoms of ASD and enhance their quality of life.
Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, works on a system of action and reward. The patient gets a reward when they have consistently performed a new behavior. ABA can be effective in some cases, but it is not the right fit for everyone with ASD.
Behavioral Therapies for ASD
Those with milder symptoms often benefit from behavioral interventions and therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT gives ASD patients a way in which to identify negative behaviors and patterns and develop more positive ones.
In young children, behavioral therapies such as Floortime or Developmental and Individual Relationships (DIR) therapy can be effective. This approach uses play to teach a child new behaviors. Parents often take part in these sessions.
Other behavioral therapies that can help those with ASD include:
- Social Skills
- Relationship Development Intervention
- Autism Education
Speech therapy is also of great benefit to many of those on the autism spectrum. Even those on the milder end of the spectrum can have a difficult relationship with speech and language. Working with a speech pathologist or therapist can help a patient develop a more engaged affect, as well. Other items speech therapy can address include learning to interpret figurative language or learning to have reciprocal conversations.