What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a group of developmental brain disorders, collectively called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, but others are severely disabled.
ASD is diagnosed according to guidelines listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition - Text Revision(DSM-IV-TR). The manual currently defines five disorders, sometimes called pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), as ASD:
Autistic disorder (classic autism)
Asperger's disorder (Asperger syndrome)
Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
Rett's disorder (Rett syndrome)
Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD).
TYPES OF AUTISM
These are the most common disorders, all presenting in a somewhat similar manner, but having slight variations:
Autistic Disorder - As stated above, and defined by the Autism Society of America : "Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
Autism is one of five disorders that falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders , a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development."
Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Also called "Atypical Autism." Children with this disorder have many of the same characteristics of Autism, but not all the criteria associated with Autism.
Asperger's Disorder - Children with this disorder do not have the usual language barriers associated with Autism and are generally very intelligent. However, they do tend to struggle with social interactions, and can fixate on a particular object or subject they take an interest in, and talk about it constantly.
Retts Disorder - Retts is rather similar to Autism, but presents only in girls. The children begin to develop on target, but then begin losing some communication abilities. The symptoms of Retts can begin to occur between ages 1 and 4.
AUTISM OVER TIME
The symptoms of Autism tend to lessen as people grow older. Or, perhaps the symptoms may present in different forms. For example, children diagnosed with Autism during their early childhood years may exhibit different problems once they reach their teen years ie. depression or other behavioral problems. Other children with Autism may show very few symptoms of it when they reach their teen and adult years. Therefore, treatments may need to be changeable over time, depending on the individual.
Currently there is no known cure for Autism. The disorder is treated by working to change the symptoms of Autism ie. helping to improve the person's ability to communicate and cope with the symptoms and deal with the repetitive behaviors.
Also, some medications have also been helpful in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with Autism. Your doctor or Psychiatrist will decide which medicine to prescribe for Autism. Your doctor should also help guide the course of treatment and consider incorporating other professional disciplines since this seems to be the most effective strategy in managing Autism.
The combined use of various therapies and medications is the most common way of treating Autism. However, some people prefer not to use medications and use therapy only. Others may use medications exclusively.