Of the autism spectrum disorders, autism is the most commonly occurring disorder. In the 2009 ADDM autism prevalence report sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention autism was reported to have a prevalance rate of 1 in every 110 births in the U.S (1 in 70 boys). Autism affects individuals differently but is defined by some larger commonalities of the disorder such as:
- Significant delays in language development
- Impaired social interaction that includes lack of interest for sharing enjoyment or empathizing with others feelings
- Repetitive/stereotypical behaviors such as hand flapping or body rocking that may involve a narrow focus on certain aspects of the environment and a need for sameness and routine.
- Lack of spontaneous or make believe play
Asperger’s syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum and shares many traits with autism such as possessing a narrow set of interests and very rigid routines and a need for structure and thus, making change very difficult. Also common to persons with Asperger’s syndrome is a difficulty with social interactions. What sets Asperger’s Syndrome apart from autism is that those affected typically do not have delayed language development. Other symptoms include:
- Difficult time understanding both verbal and nonverbal cues making effective social interaction difficult.
- Unusual voice tone
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Rigid food preferences specifically related to textures
- Poor fine and gross motor skills
DSM IV Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that is associated with social, communication, sensory, behavioral and cognitive impairments, as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, activities, or interests.
Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual on the spectrum differently. Many individuals on the spectrum also present with seizure disorder, mental retardation, audio processing issues, gastrointestinal issues, allergies, and nutritional concerns.
A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3)
- qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
- a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
- lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:
- delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
- in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
- stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
- lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
- restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
- apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
- persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years:
- social interaction,
- language as used in social communication, or
- symbolic or imaginative play
C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.