Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder marked by varying degrees of difficulties in communication and social interaction, and by the presence of repetitious or rigid routines and/or limited interests.
Children with ASD have varying patterns of language development. While some achieve language milestones within appropriate timeframes, some have clear language delays and still others may be nonverbal. Just as there can be great variability in their use of spoken language, there is often variability in language comprehension. While some children with ASD may have very strong language comprehension skills (even if their spoken language is limited or nonexistent), others may be impaired in the ability to understand the language used by others. In addition, individuals diagnosed with ASD may have difficulty with conversational skills, including problems with turn taking and a tendency to limit conversations to special interests. They may engage in repetitive speech or vocalizations and may use words in unusual or scripted ways. They may also have difficulty using and understanding non-verbal communication, including gestures, facial expressions, and personal space.
Although many children with ASD do desire friendships, there is great variability in the level of social interests. Some children with ASD have very limited interest in social interaction preferring instead to engage primarily with objects, while others are more socially curious and motivated. However, children with ASD may display socially and emotionally inappropriate responses or lack essential social skills. As a result, they may fail to develop age appropriate peer relationships even when their social interest is high.
Children with ASD may have intensive preoccupations with a single or narrow range of interests that tends to be the focus of their engagement, play and/or conversation. They can engage in a variety of repetitive behaviors and many individuals with ASD show distress over changes and struggle with transitions.
ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties with motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Fortunately, early identification and appropriate intervention can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Below are several links to additional information about intervention strategies and support to help individuals with ASD succeed at home, school and in the community.