Autism Spectrum Disorders

What are autism spectrum disorders?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are developmental disorders, meaning that the individual’s development is delayed in some manner. The delays with ASD include motor skills, social interaction and communication. The autism spectrum covers five disorders: autistic disorder (classic autism), Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD). Rett Syndrome and CDD are rare.

What are the characteristics of ASD?

ASD looks slightly different in every person, but it usually includes three main areas of concern: communication impairment, social difficulties, and unusual movements. Individuals may have lesser or more severe problems in any of these areas. Children with some forms of autism appear to develop typically for a period of time and suddenly stop developing or lose certain skills. Other children continue to develop typically in some areas, but have delays in others, such as speech or small motor skills. About 70% of children with classic autism also display some degree of intellectual deficit, and about half fail to develop any functional language. Communication is difficult for these children and can range from having no speech at all to having an amazingly large vocabulary, but not being able to remember simple words when anxious. The lack of social skills of people with ASD is common. They may not appear interested in interacting with other people or they may not know how to approach other people appropriately. In addition, individuals with ASD often have restricted interests and difficulty with changes in routine, both of which can cause difficulties with functioning in the community and in school. People with ASD often move in unexpected ways, have an odd way of walking, or repeat the same motions over and over. For some individuals these impairments are severe, while for others, they may not be immediately noticeable.

Autism is a life-long condition and there is no known cure. However, some children can be helped significantly by behavioral and educational interventions. Long-term outcomes are best for those with higher functioning language, social, and cognitive skills.

Where can I go for more information?

Information Sheets