What Is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing different about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from others, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
ASD diagnoses are on the rise. The most recent national incidence rate available indicates that 1 in 59 children were identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018 — a 30% increase over the 1 in 88 children identified in 20121. With the May 2013 publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger syndrome.
This change in categorization coupled with the rising rate of ASD identification means that more people with a wider range of ages and needs are seeking information and support from organizations like Milestones Autism Resources.
Warning Signs for Autism
If you notice these signs in your child, seek professional assessment:
- Children may not play with others or with toys in a typical manner; rather they may prefer to play alone or play with toys the same way all the time
- Verbal and nonverbal communication skills may be delayed in development, such as eye contact and gestures to communicate needs, waving goodbye or pointing at a desired object
- Children may have an extreme resistance to change of any kind, preferring to maintain a routine environment and rigid schedule
- Children may have unpredictable behavior and hyperactivity (e.g. staring at hands or flapping arms and hands, walking on tiptoes, rocking, tantrums, unusual postures)
- Children may have poor judgment and may be at risk for endangerment, such as running out into a busy parking lot
This video from the Kennedy Kreiger Institute demonstrates differences in the way neurotypical children and children who may have ASD play and interact with others.
For a free assessment (for children age 0-2 yrs old) contact Help Me Grow at 216-698-7500. For a free assessment (for children age 3 and above) contact your local school district.
1 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Data & Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Common Strengths and Talents for Individuals with Autism
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders:
- Are often exceptionally honest
- Have deep passions and intense interests
- Can be very detail-oriented
- May have a very good memory
- Rarely have “hidden agendas”
- Are typically punctual and follows a schedule
- Often rule-bound, will not break laws
- Can be especially gifted in one or more subjects/topics
- May be very good at visual thinking
Rachel Lamping, and individual with autism who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art with a degree in animation and graphic design, created an animation video called “Different, Not Less”.