What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autistic Disorder is a developmental disability that describes a wide range of abilities. Because people are affected in different ways and to different degrees, this category is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Defining characteristics of ASD are difficulties with social interactions, communication, and a limited number of interests. It is estimated that about 5 in every 10,000 people have ASD. ASD runs in families; children with siblings diagnosed with ASD are at increased risk of having ASD themselves. The risk is also greater for males, with 4 to 5 times more males being diagnosed with ASD than females.
Along with problematic social interactions, communication, and limited interests, people with ASD may specifically experience the following:
- Difficulty with eye contact and other nonverbal behaviors
- Difficulty with same-age peer relationships
- Delayed or no speech; difficulty sustaining conversations with others
- No make-believe play (e.g., playing house)
- Need to stick to a specific routine; difficulty shifting between tasks
- Special and excessive interest in specific parts of objects
Autism and Asperger’s Disorder assessments are usually performed by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Diagnosis occurs through a combination of techniques and includes a clinician, child, parent(s), and teacher(s) if applicable. Observations of how the child behaves at school or home are made by parents and teachers, often using structured behavioral checklists. The clinician will conduct an interview with the child and parents to learn about the child’s past and current functioning. The child will also participate in a neuropsychological evaluation.
What Is Asperger’s Disorder?
Asperger’s Disorder is thought to be on the mild end of the Autism Disorder spectrum. People diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder are often higher functioning than those diagnosed with ASD. People with ASD and Asperger’s Disorder share several similar symptoms; however, there are important differences in their characteristics. Although both disorders are characterized by social difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and narrow interests, the symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder are typically not as severe as those experienced by people with Autism. Additionally, unlike Autistic Disorder, people with Asperger’s Disorder do not experience a language or communication delay.
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