I’m April. I’m just one face of Autism.
If you are on the autism spectrum or love someone who is, I’m here to help you. These blogs are dedicated to helping you navigate life on the spectrum. I hope you enjoy this self-help series.
WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.
We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
* In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
High-functioning autism is characterized by features similar to those of Asperger syndrome. The defining characteristic recognized by psychologists is a significant delay in the development of early speech and language skills, before the age of three years. The diagnostic criteria of Asperger syndrome exclude a general language delay.
- People with HFA have a lower verbal reasoning ability
- Better visual/spatial skills (higher performance IQ) than people with Asperger syndrome
- Less deviating locomotion (e.g. clumsiness) than people with Asperger syndrome
- People with HFA more often have problems functioning independently
- Curiosity and interest for many different things, in contrast to people with Asperger syndrome
- People with Asperger syndrome are better at empathizing with another
- The male to female ratio of 4:1 for HFA is much smaller than that of Asperger syndrome
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders, including high-functioning autism, risk developing symptoms of anxiety. While anxiety is one of the most commonly occurring mental health symptoms, children and adolescents with high functioning autism are at an even greater risk of developing symptoms.
Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. As a milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it differs from other ASDs by relatively normal language and intelligence. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common. Signs usually begin before two years of age and typically last for a person’s entire life.
The exact cause of Asperger’s is unknown. While it is largely inherited, the underlying genetics have not been determined conclusively. Environmental factors are also believed to play a role. Brain imaging has not identified a common underlying condition. In 2013, the diagnosis of Asperger’s was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and people with these symptoms are now included within the autism spectrum disorder along with autism and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). It remains within the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as of 2019 as a subtype of autism spectrum disorder.