Autism Spectrum Disorder
The National Institute of Mental Health (INH) describes Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. They state that although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a ‘developmental disorder’ because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life (INH, 2017). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have the following: “Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors and symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life” (INH, 2017).
The National Institute of Mental Health recommends that every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits”. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight (INH, 2017).
The evaluation may assess:
Cognitive level or thinking skills, language abilities, age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, such as eating, dressing, and toileting. Because ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, a comprehensive evaluation maybe needed.
Diagnosis in adults/older children and adolescents
ASD symptoms in older children and adolescents who attend school are often first recognized by parents and teachers and then evaluated by the school’s special education team. The school’s team may perform an initial evaluation and then recommend that these children visit their primary health care doctor or doctors who specialize in ASD for additional testing.
Diagnosing ASD in adults is often more difficult than diagnosing ASD in children. In adults, some ASD symptoms can overlap with symptoms of other mental-health disorders, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/
Adults who notice the signs and symptoms of ASD should talk with a doctor and ask for a referral for an ASD evaluation. While testing for ASD in adults is still being refined, adults can be referred to a neuropsychologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who has experience with ASD.
Treatments and Therapies:
Treatment for ASD should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis. Early treatment for ASD is important as proper care can reduce individuals’ difficulties while helping them learn new skills and make the most of their strengths. (INH, 2017).
Behavioral, psychological, and educational therapy people with ASD may be referred to doctors who specialize in providing behavioral, psychological, educational, or skill-building interventions. These programs are typically highly structured and intensive and may involve parents, siblings, and other family members. Programs may help people with ASD learn life-skills necessary to live independently, reduce challenging behaviors, increase or build upon strengths, learn social, communication, and language skills, and record conversations and meetings with health care providers and teachers. (INH, 2017).
The National Institute of Mental Health advices that there are many social services programs and other resources that can help people with ASD. Here are some tips for finding these additional services: contact your doctor, local health department, school, or autism advocacy group to learn about special programs or local resources. You can also find an autism support group. Sharing information and experiences can help individuals with ASD and/or their caregivers learn about treatment options and ASD-related programs. (INH, 2017).
In summary, being diagnosed with and suffering from any disorder is not a curse. The important thing to remember is to seek help as soon as possible before any disease or disorder affects our physical bodies, our minds, and emotions.
by Aziza Awate