Autism spectrum disorder, commonly known as ASD, affects how people communicate and interact with others. It affects how they make sense of the world.
Autism is a developmental condition that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. People with ASD experience difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviors. These difficulties are often accompanied by behavioral challenges and sensory issues.
The term “spectrum” is used to emphasis that autism presents differently in every single person. People with autism have a wide range of challenges as well as abilities.
These difficulties might present as some (or all) of the following characteristics:
1) Social communication and interaction
- Lack of social-emotional reciprocity – pointing, smiling, showing you things
- Lack of non-verbal communication such as nodding and shaking head, using hand gestures
- Difficulty in developing and maintaining relationships appropriate to developmental level, such as peer play, lack of close friends – this very much depends on the age
- Delayed speech or unable to speak two words by age two
- Lack of eye contact when speaking
- Loss of language skills at any age
2) Restricted and repetitive behaviors:
- Excessive adherence to routines, patterns or behavior, distressed at changes
- Stereotyped or repetitive speech, movements or use of objects, such as rolling wheels before eyes, flapping hands, toe walking
- Hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input such as sound, pain or textures
- Restricted or fixated interests such as only playing with certain toys or discussing certain topics
- Aggressive toward other people or toward self
We can typically diagnose a child at about 2 years of age, when it becomes apparent they are not meeting their developmental milestones.
Symptoms of autism can sometimes be subtle and may not become obvious until a child starts school or moves into adulthood.