Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined as a group of developmental brain disorders with symptoms ranging from mild impairments to severe disabilities. The specific causes of autism spectrum disorder are unknown at this time but it is thought that both environment and genetics are key factors.
Autism spectrum disorder currently consists of five different disorders that are also called pervasive developmental disorders. These five types of autism disorders include:
There are several early warning signs of autism in toddlers. Typically the child will have difficulty communicating with others, for example struggling alone with a problem rather than asking for assistance. In addition, they may have poor eye contact or lack interest in sharing and responding to experiences with others. Another notable sign is unusual play with toys, where the child uses the toy for something other than its intended purpose. Finally, young children with an autism spectrum disorder use fewer sounds, words and gestures to convey their message in comparison to normal developing children.
Signs of autism in children that are older surround many of the same areas of social interactions, relationship with others and verbal and nonverbal communication. Older children fail to develop friendships with other kids their age and show a lack of interest in sharing and connecting with other people. In addition, they lack empathy for other’s feelings. Additional signs in older children include a delay in learning to talk, use of repetitive language, difficulty understanding social nuances of conversation such as humor and an unusual pre-occupation on certain toys as well as repetition and routines.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior. ABA autism treatment focuses on changing behaviors. ABA therapist can be instrumental in helping both toddlers and older children learn appropriate behaviors to build better relationship at home, school and in their communities.
There are many famous people with autism. Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle, American Idol alum James Durbin, Daryl Hannah and Dan Aykroyd have all spoken out publicly about their diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Dan Aykroyd attributes one of his symptoms, obsession with ghosts and law enforcement, as his reason for envisioning the film Ghostbusters.