Saturday, April 7, 2018

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?


Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as, simply, Autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that first occurs during childhood, which impacts brain development and causes individuals to have difficulty with social interaction and communication, and is also known for its tendency to cause repetition of specific behavioural patterns. 

Whether it is a child living with autism or an adult, the characteristics are often similar, but may differ in terms of age of onset, severity of symptoms, functioning levels, and challenges with social interaction. In cases where the condition is mild, personality differences may be noticeable, while things like aggression and sometimes even self-injury occur in cases where the autism is more severe. It’s also not uncommon for there to be immune system irregularities, nutritional deficiencies, and gastrointestinal problems. Because of the way in which these symptoms can differ from person to person, treatment for ASD is always specific to the individual. However, despite these weaknesses, patient with autism will also exhibit many strengths such as non-verbal reasoning skills, perceptual motor skills, drawing skills, music skills, and also often have exceptional memory skills.

In Canada, physicians follow a specific criteria to evaluate and diagnose ASD by using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). As an example, some of the criterial includes the following: Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests and emotions. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviours used for social interaction, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language, to a lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication, and deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, including difficulties adjusting behavioyr to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers. This is just a small example of the criteria followed. You can find a complete, in-depth copy of the manual by clicking here.

As mentioned, treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is designed specific to the individual. Because so many other health conditions can develop as a direct result of autism, medications prescribed may include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, anti-fungals, anti-virals, as well as psychotherapeutic medications. Diet is also often looked at as part of a patient’s treatment plan, which may include following a ketogenic diet, a yeast-free diet, or gluten-free diet. In addition to these standard treatment methods, other therapies such as neurofeedback and sensory integration can help reduce behavioural symptoms associated with autism. 

For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit the Autism Society of British Columbia’s website at www.autismbc.ca.

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