Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a range of ability levels and a variety of symptoms. Some children, for example, are developmentally delayed with no language, while others have average or higher intelligence and are verbal. Symptoms of ASD usually are observable by 12 to 24 months of age. There is urgency to diagnosing a child with ASD as soon as possible, because the best treatment gains are made when the child is young.
A child with ASD has difficulty with social communication and interaction. Typically, the child has difficulty reading others’ facial expressions, engaging in back-and-forth conversation, and adjusting her behaviour as needed by the social situation. The child might avoid eye contact or stare inappropriately; and might have delayed speech or peculiar habits of speech (e.g. inability to use pronouns, echoed speech).
Other symptoms of ASD are related to the restricted and repetitive patterns in the child’s behaviour, interests, or activities. The child, for example, might be insistent about eating the same food every day, or following routines of behaviour. Fixations on specific objects and interests are common in children with ASD, as is unusual reactions to sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. fascination with lights, excessive touching or smelling objects, intolerance of noise).