What is ASD?
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD)
Is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although ASD can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a developmental disorder because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, those diagnosed with ASD have difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours, and other symptoms that make it challenging to function properly in school, at work, and in daily living.
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups.
Signs and symptoms of ASD
Those diagnosed with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in those diagnosed with ASD. While not everyone with ASD will show all behaviors, most will show several.
Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Tending not to look at or listen to people
- Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
- Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
- Having difficulties with back and forth of conversation
- Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
- Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
- Having an unusual tone of voice that may have an irregular pitch, or come across flat and robot-like
- Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:
- Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
- Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
- Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
- Getting upset by slight changes in a routine
- Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
Where Does Asperger’s Syndrome fit in with ASD?
Asperger Syndrome was named after the Vienna-based pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who, in 1944, studied and wrote about children in his practice who demonstrated the cluster of characteristics that are prevalent in those diagnosed today with Level 1 ASD. Asperger Syndrome was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994.
Level 1 ASD
While still used by many individuals who received a diagnosis prior to 2013, the term Asperger’s Syndrome no longer appears in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and falls under the broad category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Those diagnosed in the past with Asperger’s Syndrome are now identified as having Level 1 ASD (requiring minimal support).
1 in 66
Children and youth
It is thought that as many as 1 in 66 children and youth in Canada have some form of an ASD.