Autism Spectrum Disorder


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Different people with autism can have very different symptoms.  Health care providers think of autism as a “spectrum” disorder, a group of disorders with similar features.  One person may have mild symptoms, while another may have serious symptoms.  But they both have an autism spectrum disorder.

Currently, the autism spectrum disorder category includes:

-- Autistic disorder (also called “classic” autism)

-- Asperger syndrome

-- Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (or atypical autism)

In some cases, health care providers use a broader term, pervasive developmental disorder, to describe autism.  This category includes the autism spectrum disorders above, plus Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Rett syndrome.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder

  1. 1. EducationHealth TopicsAutism Spectrum Disorder
  2. 2. 1OverviewDifferent people with autism can have verydifferent symptoms. Health care providers think ofautism as a “spectrum” disorder, a group ofdisorders with similar features. One person mayhave mild symptoms, while another may haveserious symptoms. But they both have an autismspectrum disorder.
  3. 3. 2OverviewCurrently, the autism spectrum disorder categoryincludes:-- Autistic disorder (also called “classic” autism)-- Asperger syndrome-- Pervasive Developmental Disorder NotOtherwise Specified (or atypical autism)
  4. 4. 3OverviewIn some cases, health care providers use a broaderterm, pervasive developmental disorder, todescribe autism. This category includes the autismspectrum disorders above, plus ChildhoodDisintegrative Disorder and Rett syndrome.
  5. 5. 4AutismAutism is a disorder that is usually first diagnosedin early childhood. The main signs and symptomsof autism involve communication, socialinteractions and repetitive behaviors.
  6. 6. 5AutismChildren with autism might have problems talkingwith you, or they might not look you in the eyewhen you talk to them. They may have to line uptheir pencils before they can pay attention, or theymay say the same sentence again and again tocalm themselves down. They may flap their armsto tell you they are happy, or they might hurtthemselves to tell you they are not. Some peoplewith autism never learn how to talk.
  7. 7. 6AutismBecause people with autism can have verydifferent features or symptoms, health careproviders think of autism as a "spectrum" disorder.Asperger syndrome is a milder version of thedisorder.The cause of autism is not known. Autism laststhroughout a persons lifetime. There is nocure, but treatment can help. Treatments includebehavior and communication therapies andmedicines to control symptoms.
  8. 8. 7Aspergers SyndromeAspergers syndrome (AS) is an autism spectrumdisorder. It is milder than autism but shares someof its symptoms. It is more common in boys thangirls.
  9. 9. 8Aspergers SyndromeAn obsessive interest in a single subject is a majorsymptom of AS. Some children with AS havebecome experts on dinosaurs, makes and modelsof cars, even objects as seemingly odd as vacuumcleaners. Their expertise, high level of vocabularyand formal speech patterns make them seem likelittle professors.
  10. 10. 9Aspergers SyndromeChildren with AS have trouble reading social cuesand recognizing other peoples feelings. They mayhave strange movements or mannerisms. All ofthese make it difficult for them to make friends.Problems with motor skills are also common inchildren with AS. They may be late learning to ridea bike or catch a ball, for example. Treatmentfocuses on the three main symptoms: poorcommunication skills, obsessive or repetitiveroutines, and physical clumsiness.
  11. 11. 10PDDThe diagnostic category of pervasivedevelopmental disorders (PDD) refers to a group ofdisorders characterized by delays in thedevelopment of socialization and communicationskills.
  12. 12. 11PDDParents may note symptoms as early as infancy,although the typical age of onset is before 3 yearsof age. Symptoms may include problems withusing and understanding language; difficultyrelating to people, objects, and events; unusualplay with toys and other objects; difficulty withchanges in routine or familiar surroundings, andrepetitive body movements or behavior patterns.
  13. 13. 12PDDChildren with PDD vary widely in abilities,intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do notspeak at all, others speak in limited phrases orconversations, and some have relatively normallanguage development. Repetitive play skills andlimited social skills are generally evident. Unusualresponses to sensory information, such as loudnoises and lights, are also common.
  14. 14. 13SymptomsThe main signs and symptoms of autism involveproblems in the following areas:-- Communication - both verbal (spoken) and non-verbal (unspoken, such as pointing, eye contact,and smiling)
  15. 15. 14Symptoms-- Social - such as sharing emotions, understandinghow others think and feel, and holding aconversation-- Routinesor repetitive behaviors (also called stereotypedbehaviors) - such asrepeating words or actions, obsessively followingroutines or schedules,
  16. 16. 15Symptomsand playing in repetitive waysThe symptoms of autism can usually be observedby 18 months of age.Thereare many possible red flags for autism - behaviorsthat may be signs or
  17. 17. 16Symptomssymptoms of autism. Some features may mean adelay in one or moreareas of development, while others may be moretypical of autismspectrum disorders. If you think your child showsred flags for autism,talk to your health care provider.
  18. 18. 17TreatmentThere is no cure for autism, nor is there one singletreatment for autism spectrum disorders. Butthere are ways to help minimize the symptoms ofautism and to maximize learning.
  19. 19. 18Treatment**Behavioral therapy and other therapeuticoptions:**-- Behavior management therapy helps to reinforcewanted behaviors, and reduce unwantedbehaviors. It is often based on Applied BehaviorAnalysis (ABA).-- Speech-language therapists can help people withautism improve their ability to communicate andinteract with others.
  20. 20. 19Treatment**Behavioral therapy and other therapeuticoptions:**-- Occupational therapists can help people findways to adjust tasks to match their needs andabilities.-- Physical therapists design activities and exerciseto build motor control and improve posture andbalance.
  21. 21. 20Treatment**Educational and/or school-based options:**-- Public schools are required to provide free,appropriate public education from age 3 throughhigh school or age 21, whichever comes first.
  22. 22. 21Treatment**Educational and/or school-based options:**-- Typically, a team of people, including theparents, teachers, caregivers, school psychologists,and other child development specialists worktogether to design an Individualized Education Plan(IEP) to help guide the child’s school experiences.**Medication options:**
  23. 23. 22Treatment**Educational and/or school-based options:**-- Currently there are no medications that can cureautism spectrum disorders or all of thesymptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationhas not approved any medications specifically forthe treatment of autism, but in many casesmedication can treat some of the symptomsassociated with autism.
  24. 24. 23Treatment**Educational and/or school-based options:**-- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),tricyclics, psychoactive/anti-psychotics, stimulants,and anti-anxiety drugs are among the medicationsthat a health care provider might use to treatsymptoms of autism spectrum disorders.-- Secretin—a hormone that helps digestion—isnot recommended as a treatment for autism.
  25. 25. 24Resources-- A Parents Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders-- Autism and Genes-- CDC: Autism and Vaccines