What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism is a neurobiological, lifelong developmental disorder, which means it is a disorder of the nervous system caused by genetic, metabolic, or other biological factors. Autism typically becomes apparent during a child’s first three years; often within the first 12 to 18 months.
ASD is typically associated with difficulties in the following areas:
- social communication
- social interaction
- restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities
What causes autism?
There is no known cause. Many researchers believe autism is the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors. However, recent studies have shown links between areas of the brain and autism.
How is autism diagnosed?
There are no biological tests to determine autism. However, specifically trained physicians, psychologists and speech language pathologists can diagnose through observing autism-specific behaviour. Parents are usually the first to notice signs of unusual behaviour and are encouraged to trust their instincts and seek out a doctor to complete a screening evaluation. From there, the doctor can refer the child to the appropriate specialist.
The doctor can then refer the child to the appropriate specialist.
What are the symptoms of autism?
Autism affects brain functioning, which interferes with the normal development of reasoning, behaviour, social interaction and communication.
Some signs to look for include:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
Early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly better outcomes.