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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes several conditions that were once diagnosed separately, such as autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. ASD is a developmental disorder. Symptoms usually appear in a child’s first few years, but diagnosis can occur at any stage in a person’s life. ASD impacts how a person relates to others and symptoms vary in severity. Some people with ASD, for example. need a lot of help, while others need less.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is the official guide to diagnosing ASD, states that people with ASD have:
Those symptoms are pretty broad. Each person exhibits different symptoms, but common ones include:
However, there are many ways that symptoms of the autism spectrum can manifest. Some children with ASD have difficulty learning, while others have normal to high intelligence. They may learn very quickly but have problems communicating and adapting to everyday situations. Many children can lead almost-normal lives, while others may have behavioral and emotional problems that plague them for life.
Although there is much to be learned about the causes of ASD, the CDC does report some of the factors make a child more likely to have ASD:
Healthcare providers often take a two-step process in diagnosing ASD. Your own provider may recognize some of the symptoms when you take your child in for wellness checks. Then your doctor may refer you to a specialist. Typically ASD can be detected quite early, as young as 18 months. This lets your child get help quicker.
Although there is no cure for ASD, intervention services can help you overcome developmental delays. Treatment is available for certain symptoms, such as speech therapy for a language delay. Sometimes, you may not even need a formal diagnosis of ASD to get help.
If you’re concerned about your child, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Many symptoms associated with ASD can be linked to other developmental disorders. It’s important to get the right diagnosis to get the proper help.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml
“Autism spectrum disorder.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928”
“Basics About ASD.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maria Oneida, MD
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.