Autism: Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

What is Autism? What is an Autism Specturm Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Awareness Ribbon

Autism is a biologically-based neurodevelopmental disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a broader term used to describe several interrelated conditions, including Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders-NOS. Children with ASD tend to have difficulties related to socialization, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Also, many children with Autism may experience issues with cognitive abilities, troubled attending, sensory issues, difficulties with sleeping, and gastrointestinal disturbances. Recent data from The Center for Disease control estimates that Autism impacts 1 in 68 children in the US.  Research supports the idea that signs and symptoms of an Autism Spectrum Disorder are present from a young age in most children, and that early intensive behavioral intervention results in the best outcomes for children on the Autism Spectrum.

What are the signs/symptoms of Autism?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified the following “red flags” that may indicate a child is at risk for ASD. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:

• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter.
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months.
• No babbling by 12 months.
• No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months.
• No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months.
• Any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills at any age.
• No or inconsistent response to his/her name being called.
• Stimming behaviors such as flapping, rocking, spinning, head banging, squealing, constantly feeling textures or repeating words and phrases.
• Inconsistent use of eye contact, gestures (such as pointing or shaking head), and facial expressions to convey needs and desires.
• Child may show limited interest in watching or playing with other children.

Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Social Communication Disorder (SCD)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Developmental Disorders (DSM-5) provides psychologists and psychiatrists with the necessary criteria to evaluate and diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Social Communication Disorder (SCD). Diagnosis occurs through a comprehensive behavioral and developmental assessment.

Total Education Solutions offers a diagnostic assessment called Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). The ADOS is a semi-structured, play-based assessment that is currently considered the gold standard for assessment of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. At TES, the ADOS is administered by a Pediatric Psychologist as part of a comprehensive developmental assessment with a team of professionals to help best determine the needs of the child.