Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a new medical classification that includes the continuum of disorders that have been typically referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Autism Disorder. In the United States, approximately 20 children in 1000 are identified with ASD. We know that ASD occurs more frequently in boys than in girls.
Individuals with ASD experience difficulties with social communication that begin early on in life. Responding to and understanding the feelings and thoughts of others and engaging in social relationships become challenges. These challenges are significant enough that they impair general life functioning whether at school, work, or home.
Children with ASD may exhibit limited eye contact with others and be less interested in playing with other children or participating in reciprocal play. They tend to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as lining up toys, or repeating the same phrases of speech or the same simple motor movements. They may display very focused interests and rituals.
Adults with ASD experience difficulties in their social and personal relationships as they may miss social cues and not really understand what others expect of them. Comprehending the subtleties of what is socially acceptable is problematic for them and interferes with work performance as well as interpersonal relationships.
Unfortunately, some adolescents and adults who are bright and high functioning may be able to make their way through the educational system without ever being identified and without having received the appropriate interventions. Lack of early identification and subsequent misunderstanding can result in low self-esteem, poor academic or work performance, and behavioral and emotional difficulties. Identification is important and can be performed through a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation.
Early treatment includes Applied Behavioral Analysis, social skills training, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy. A neuropsychological evaluation can help document the special needs of the individual, but most importantly, provide tailored recommendations to address the difficulties.