Module 2 - Autism Spectrum Disorders

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?

The core features of autism spectrum disorders are: Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour interests or activities These features begin in the first years of life, although in mild cases a person may not get a diagnosis until they are much older. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders may have varying degrees of deficit in each area. It can look very different depending on the person's language skills, age, gender, general intelligence, personality, therapeutic interventions and life opportunities. The social communication impairment means that the person has difficulty in knowing how to interact with other people. They find it difficult to take turns in conversation and may show little or no interest in what the other person has to say. They have difficulty in understanding what other people may be thinking or feeling and so can appear inconsiderate and rude. They often find it difficult to develop friendships. The person does not develop language or has poorly developed language and these difficulties are beyond what would be expected for a person of their intelligence. Often the use of language is strange (for example getting ‘I’ and ‘you’ mixed up) and may be repetitive. Sometimes they may echo what other people have said to them without understanding what they are saying. Problems in non-verbal communication are often evident and so they may make poor or odd eye contact, they may not show much change in facial expression and have difficulty in expressing their emotion. Their voice often lacks intonation and they may have difficulty in using and understanding gestures. The difficulties with imagination mean that they can have very limited, narrow, stereotyped and repetitive patterns of behaviour. It also means that they find it difficult to imagine what things might be like which makes new or novel situations very anxiety provoking. These difficulties underlie the serious and difficult challenging behaviour that people who have autism spectrum disorder can present with. It also has major implications for education, environmental planning and interventions. Please click on the following link to access a factsheet from DSM–V on the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, then use the back button on your browser to return to this module.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Factsheet

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