In appreciation of Autism Awareness Day, here is some information about the disorder. There’s a lot more to know, but these are some basics for those not too familiar with it.

The word “autism” is derived from the Greek word “autos” which means “self,” or “of the self”

The official diagnosis is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As of summer 2013, this is the diagnosis for all persons with Asperger’s Disorder, Autism/Autistic Disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder. It is important to be aware that these diagnostic labels no longer exist, and any diagnosing physician or psychologist who comes across them when reviewing diagnoses must make the change to ASD.

There are also important changes to diagnostic criteria. An impairment in language is no longer a part of the ASD diagnosis. The following diagnostic criteria are directly quoted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM 5, 2013):
“A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts…
B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities…
C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.”

The most common co-occurring diagnosis is Intellectual Disability (prior to 2013, this was known as Mental Retardation). Estimates vary, but the range is 40-70% of persons with ASD also have Intellectual Disability of some degree.

A child with ASD doesn’t necessarily have a language delay, and a child with a language delay doesn’t necessarily have ASD. Click here to learn about language delay.

New estimates show that ASD is diagnosed in 1 out of 67 children. This rate is how often the diagnosis is given by doctors. When thinking about this ratio, consider that it may include children who are also mistakenly diagnosed with ASD when they are really presenting with symptoms of a different disorder. The ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with ASD is 4 to 1.

There are no known causes or cures for ASD. Early identification is extremely important and there are a number of evidence-based therapies known to help reduce symptoms and improve skills in persons with ASD. Assessment and therapy by a Speech-Language Pathologist is a very important part of the journey toward improvement.

If you suspect your child has difficulties in speech, language, or social communication, make a referral today using the secure online referral form.