What is Autism?

what is autism

Autism is what doctors and other health professionals diagnose children and adults that:

  • show communication difficulties PLUS
  • restrictive, repetitive behaviours AND
  • these 2 signs of autism have been present from an early age (i.e., it is a developmental condition even though sometimes the diagnosis of Autism is not given until the child is at school).

Autism Diagnosis

what is autism

What is Autism and how is it diagnosed? Autism diagnosis is not as simple as doing a single test that can spit out a result that says a child has or has not got autism. There is currently a lot of research aimed at assisting in identifying better process of autism diagnosis. Areas such as DNA testing and brain imaging in is being explored. Magnetic resonance imaging showing accelerated growth of brain surface area during an infant’s first year of life has allowed researchers to predict—with 80 percent accuracy in a small-scale study of 100 infants—whether the infant would later be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 2 years old. ASHA Leader, May 2017, Vol. 22, 13. These techniques however are still in the experimental stages. AHSH Leader

what is autism
​Currently Autism diagnosis is based on clinical observations and checklists.

There is a medical document called the DSM-V (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that lists the signs and behaviours a child has to show for a diagnosis of autism to be given. This version has been used since 2013.

​Doctors, parents, teachers, psychologist, speech pathologists and other health professionals are asked to report if specific signs of autism have been observed. They are also asked to report on how much these concerns impact on the child’s ability to function and learn. An Autism diagnosis is given if the key signs of Autism (social communication issues & restrictive, repetitive behaviours) are observed in several settings. This is generally given by a paediatrician after looking at all the observations made by the above people.

what is autism Spectrum disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

The official diagnosis of Autism is now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Prior to 2013 there were terms that attempted to capture how “severe” or the different ways autism could look (e.g., Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – not otherwise specified). The DSM-V now says that these are all similar in that they all present with communication concerns and restrictive, repetitive behaviours. However, they may fall at different points on the scale between the two extremes of mild concerns through to severe difficulties.

Hence now there is just the one term, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A severity rating of 1, 2 or 3 is now given. See DSM-V diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for more details on the key characteristics and how severity is determined. Remember these signs of Autism can look different at different ages.

There is also now a separate diagnosis of social communication disorder. This diagnosis is given when there are specific social-interactional communication problems however there is insufficient restrictive, repetitive behaviours to call it Autism

Definition of SPECTRUM: used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points.

See More Blogs on Autism 

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Autism in the Preschool years
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