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Learn More About Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Autism Spectrum Disorder has been increasingly diagnosed in children and teens throughout the last 20 years.

It is not yet understood what exactly causes it, and this had led to many damaging ideas and treatments.

What is important, is for parents to know what to look for in their children and teens if they suspect Autism Spectrum Disorder, as this will help the parent to get an early, accurate diagnosis and receive appropriate services in school.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is categorized as a developmental disability. This developmental disability can range from mild to severe (a spectrum of severity) which directly impacts the verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors and social interaction among children and teens who diagnosed with the disorder. 

Signs of autism may become apparent as early as 2 and 3 years of age in a child.

How Prevalent is Autism in Childhood?

The National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) and National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) shared the prevalence of Autism as 25 per 1,000 children within the 3-17 years age group.       `

What are the causes?

There are many speculated causes for Autism, but to date there is no known cause that has been scientifically proven related to Autism. Studies show that there are varying factors that makes a child more predisposed to Autism including: 

  • Environmental factors
  • Biological factors
  • Genetic Factors 
  • Being born to older parents

What is meant by the term Spectrum?

The term spectrum normally relates to a great range of symptoms associated with the disorder ranging on a scale from mild to severe. The term also identifies both singular and multiple traits and symptoms connected to the disorder. 

Changes of Autism in the DSM-5?

The DSM-5 is a manual that is used to assess and diagnose mental disorders without the inclusion of information as it relates to the treatment of the disorder. In essence it discloses the requisite symptoms and criteria to accurately diagnose mental disorders in a manner that clinicians can understand and relay the information to their patients.

With the newest edition of the DSM, the DSM-5, the view on Autism has changed in the following ways: 

  • Subtypes of Autism in regard to the Asperger Disorder are no longer included
  • Symptoms are geared to two main areas being social interaction and repetitive behaviors 
  • Language delay is no longer a diagnostic symptom. 
  • Hyper/ Hypo reactivity added as a stimuli symptom in restricted or repetitive category
  • Appearance of symptoms before age 3 

Indicators or Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

There are several symptoms and signs that can be used to indicate Autism in your child or teen. Amongst these include: 

  • Failure to respond to name or affection
  • Inability to play social games with peers
  • Prefers playing alone 
  • Great difficulty regulating all emotions 
  • Unable to interpret the feelings and thoughts of others
  • Extreme interests
  • Fail to play with toys but focuses on placing them in a fixed manner 
  • Fails to display eye contact
  • Echo words and phrases
  • Demonstrates repetitive motions

Can Autism exist with Other Diagnoses? 

The reality is, other diagnoses can exist with Autism and this is referred to as co-occurring conditions. These conditions include bipolar disorder, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, clinical depression, eating disorders, down syndrome, fragile x syndrome, language delay, intellectual disability, sleep problems, epilepsy and seizures, Tourette syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and gastrointestinal symptoms. 

How Early Can It Be Assessed and By Whom? 

To minimize missing the diagnosis and offering help early it is recommended that the child is screened for Autism as early as 18 to 24 months of age by a Pediatrician or Psychologist; though it is not normally fully diagnosed until the age 4 or 5. 

Treatment for Autism

There is no cure for autism, and there are many people with Autism who believe that it is not something to be "cured"or "treated" but to be accepted. However, for most children, the implementation of a comprehensive treatment plan from an early age can prove to have great benefits in the child's learning and social environments. The treatment plan includes behavioral, social, and parental guidance and skill training alongside medicine where necessary. 

Final Thoughts

Autism Spectrum in children and teens can be identified by symptoms that are usually observed by concerned parents. It’s important to take your child to regular yearly checkups with their pediatrician, who will be able to spot any signs of Autism from an early age and refer your child for treatment immediately, so the most appropriate services as they learn and grow.