Autism Spectrum Disorder

The developmental disability known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is caused by differences in the brain. For some people with ASD, the difference is known, such as a genetic condition. Other causes, however, are still not yet known. It is believed that ASD has many causes that act together to alter the most common ways people develop. There’s still a lot to learn about those causes and how they impact those with ASD.

Nothing in the appearance of people with ASD often sets them apart from others. They might learn, interact, communicate, and behave in ways different from the vast majority of people. The abilities of people with ASD often vary significantly. For instance, some people with ASD may be nonverbal while others may have advanced communication skills. Some people with ASD require a lot of help in their everyday lives while others are able to live and work with little to no support.

ASD starts before the age of 3 years and can last throughout the life of the person, although symptoms can improve over time. Some children actually start showing ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, however, symptoms don’t show up until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD meet developmental milestones and gain new skills, until about 18 to 24 months of age when they either stop gaining new skills or lose the ones they previously had.

An ASD diagnosis currently includes several conditions that would previously be diagnosed separately: Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and autistic disorder. The three conditions are all now referred to as autism spectrum disorder. Updated criteria for making an ASD diagnosis include problems with social interaction and communication, and repetitive or restricted interests or behaviours. It is also worth noting that some people without ASD can also have some of the symptoms. For people with ASD, however, the characteristics can be life incredibly challenging. If you have the right qualifications and would like to work with children with autism or special needs then see Hampshire education jobs.

Social Interaction and Communication Skills

For people with ASD, social interaction and communication skills can be incredibly challenging. Examples of social interaction and social communication characteristics that are related to ASD include the following:

  • Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age (e.g. doesn’t wave goodbye)
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
  • Doesn’t show facial expressions like sad, happy, surprised, and angry by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Avoids or doesn’t keep eye contact
  • Doesn’t share interests with others (e.g., showing you an object that he/she loves by 15 months of age)
  • Doesn’t notice when others are sad or hurt by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend in play (e.g., doesn’t pretend to “feed” a doll by 30 months of age)
  • Doesn’t play games with turn taking by 60 months of age
  • Has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings at 36 months of age or older
  • Shows little interest in peers
  • Doesn’t point or look at what you point by 18 months of age

Repetitive or Restrictive Behaviours or Interests

People with ASD have interests or behaviours that might seem unusual. The behaviours or interests are what sets ASD apart from conditions defined by only problems with social interaction and communication.

Examples of repetitive or restricted behaviours and interests related to ASD may include:

  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Repeats words and phrases over and over (i.e., echolalia)
  • Lines up toys or other objects and becomes upset if the order is changed
  • Is focused on parts of objects (e.g., wheels)