Autism Spectrum Disorder
Debra Atkisson, M.D., DFAPA
The Parenting Center’s Guest Writer
Autism spectrum disorder refers to children who have been diagnosed as having Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome. In the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association, these diagnoses have been combined under one diagnosis, Autism spectrum disorder.
What are the symptoms of this disorder? Developmental delays or atypical functioning before age three in communication, social interaction, and restricted, repetitive patterns of interaction or behavior characterize the child with this disorder. A child with this mental health issue may not make eye contact, speak in a robot-like voice, not grasp the nonverbal elements of communication such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and may show unusual movements such as flapping his hands.
How common is this disorder? One in 88 children qualifies to have a disorder on the spectrum. The former diagnosis of Asperger’s Sydrome is considered the mildest variant of this illness. An Asperger’s patient has normal or above level intelligence and communicates in a more functional way; these patients may seem odd in some ways, but they are able to function and work. This illness is five times more common in boys than in girls.
What should parents do if they suspect their child has Autism spectrum disorder? Have your child evaluated. Your pediatrician is your first resource for evaluation and should be consulted. Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) provides services for children ages 0 to 3 and their staff is very experienced with recognizing and diagnosing children on the spectrum.
Parents may have a lot of anxiety about this diagnosis. Please remember that help is available and the sooner you intervene with your child the better his chances of improving.
A resource for getting more information about this illness is the Centers for Disease Control, and their website about autism spectrum disorders is www.cdc.gov/ncbdd/autism/data.html
A few takeaways about Autism spectrum disorder:
1. Some symptoms include: lack of eye contact, speaking in a
robot-like voice, inability to grasp tone of voice or facial expressions,
and unusual movements such as flapping his hands.
2. One in 88 children qualifies to have a disorder on the spectrum.
3. If you suspect your child may have a disorder on the spectrum,
have your child evaluated.