Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) describes a range of conditions in which affected individuals have difficulty with communication and social interactions. Originally, autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) were separate conditions, but now they are all combined under the diagnosis of ASD. The range of symptoms for ASD varies greatly, so that some affected individuals may only have mild symptoms, while others may have more severe symptoms.
Symptoms of ASD may include difficulty with social interactions (including understanding what others are thinking or feeling), difficulty communicating, repetitive behaviors (including flapping hands, rocking back and forth, and spinning in circles), focusing attention on specific details, requiring regulated routines, and being overly sensitive to light and sound.
The exact cause for ASD is not known at this time. However, there are both genetic and environmental factors which increase the risk of developing the condition. Making a diagnosis for ASD may be complicated, and generally cannot be determined with one simple test. Occasionally, parents may see early signs of ASD in infancy, but generally the condition is not diagnosed until early childhood.
Having a child with ASD can be physically and emotionally draining on parents. It is important not to become overwhelmed. Developing a solid support system that includes additional caregivers allows parents the chance to relax. Support groups are also a great source of support and information where parents can learn from other parents with children affected by ASD. Although there is currently no cure for ASD, there are various therapies and resources to help manage the condition. If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, talk with your child’s doctor or specialist about the most current treatment options.