Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children
Autism spectrum disorder is an umbrella term referring to various neurological differences affecting communications, behavior, learning and interaction. Conditions that fall under the diagnosis of ASD include Asperger syndrome, autistic disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. The abilities of people with ASD can vary widely. For example, many children on the autism spectrum have a condition called hyperlexia, which involves learning to read early and developing a fixation with numbers and letters. Meanwhile, other children with ASD are mostly or entirely nonverbal.
Because no medical test can detect autism and the disorder presents so differently in various children, many families can struggle to receive an accurate diagnosis of ASD. However, if your young child is not meeting specific developmental milestones or if they seem to be progressing backward, they may fall somewhere along the autism spectrum. Here’s what you should know about autism spectrum disorders in children.
Is Autism a Disability?
Some information about autism frames it as a learning or developmental disability. However, as our understanding of ASD evolves, we are increasingly learning that this is not necessarily the case. While some ASD symptoms can overlap with those of intellectual disabilities, it may help parents to think of the autism spectrum as an atypical way of experiencing and interacting with the world. For example, people with Asperger syndrome tend to be highly detail-oriented, have excellent memories and may develop niche interests that could become fulfilling hobbies or careers.
Causes and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children
While we don’t know the precise causes of autism, researchers have identified a genetic component. Children born to older parents may also be at a higher risk for developing autism. Research has thoroughly debunked the misconception that there is any link between vaccines and autism.
ASD can manifest in several ways, often from a very early age.
- Communications challenges: Children with ASD often have trouble expressing themselves, maintaining eye contact in conversation or understanding how other people feel. As a result, they may not notice when they have said or done something that hurts someone else’s feelings. They might also prefer solo activities where they don’t have to interact with people.
- Sensory issues: For many children on the autism spectrum, a hallmark of ASD can include unusual reactions to loud noises, bright lights or specific textures.
- Self-stimulating behaviors: Some people with ASD find it soothing to rock back and forth, spin around in circles, focus intently on an object, repeat certain sounds or flap their hands. These activities, known as “stimming,” are not cause for alarm unless they interfere with learning, result in social stigma or constitute self-harm.
- Repetitive behaviors: In many cases, people with ASD find order and routine extremely calming. They may become irrationally upset over minor changes to their daily schedule, or feel compelled to arrange their toys a specific way every time. Often, these traits make ASD challenging to distinguish from obsessive-compulsive disorder, even for a trained professional.
ASD Treatment and Support
Since you want the best for your child, it can be alarming to receive a diagnosis that they are on the autism spectrum. However, at Pine Grove, treatment is available to ensure you get the behavioral and family therapy you need to live a healthy, happy and balanced life. For more information on treating autism spectrum disorder in children, please contact us today.