What is Autism?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a “group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) changed the way we define autism. In the past, a child could be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), or Autism Spectrum Disorder. DSM-5 did away with all of those diagnoses and replaced them with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1, 2, or 3. Other classifiers may exist with ASD as well. Research agrees that the new classification of ASD is more accurate; however, there are professionals who argue that better definitions and diagnosis qualifications are needed.
Early Signs of ASD
Some early signs of autism spectrum disorders may include:
- sleep disturbance
- feeding problems
- lack of eye contact
- lack of joint attention
- unusual fixations on a particular toy or object
- staging toys rather than playing with them
- lack of social interaction
- inability to relate to others
While this is not a complete list, or grounds for diagnosis, it is base list of the most common early signs of autism spectrum disorders. These signs should be followed up with a qualified medical professional who can accurately diagnose or rule out autism spectrum disorders.
ASD is highly misunderstood. From causes to cures and everything in between, the internet is full of information that is part truth mixed with fantasy. Here are just a few misconceptions of note.
- Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism spectrum disorders. While there are many people who hold this idea as absolute truth, the reality is that there have been no studies showing a link between MMR and ASD. For more information, see the blog post on vaccines and ASD.
- Certain diets, such as gluten-free, can cure ASD. While certain diets can certainly improve the quality of life for someone with ASD, there have been no documented cases or studies showing that any diet has cured someone of ASD.
- Individuals with ASD cannot learn, or properly take care of themselves. No two people with ASD are alike. While some individuals with ASD might have severe limitations in language and everyday skills, others might be the opposite. Individuals with ASD do lack social communication skills and the ability to connect with others around them; however, skill level varies for individuals on the spectrum. There are plenty of people with ASD that can hold jobs and communicate with others. They may still need some help in adulthood, but not all require around the clock care.
For more misconceptions or information, check the source material used for this page.
Sicile-Kira, C. (2014). Autism spectrum disorder: the complete guide to understanding autism. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) LLC.