Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly known as autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and PDD-NOS) is a disability or delay in social skills along with repetitive or rigid behaviors. Young children with autism can seem disconnected from those around them or occasionally, unusually aggressive in common situations (daycare/preschool or Kindergarten). Problems with early speech and language are also common in children with autism. Teens and adults with less severe autism may have very few friends and seem to be content to be by themself much of the time. They may have a topic of intense interest or routines could be extremely important to them to feel secure and to manage anxiety.
Testing for autism involves careful interviewing about the person's early developmental history, ruling out other factors (like social anxiety) that limit some people's social engagement, and social testing using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). The ADOS is the "gold-standard" test used now to identify limitations in social skills, especially for people with less severe autism. Observations in school or other community setting may also be needed.
Obtaining a diagnosis can open up access to important early interventions such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), specialized classrooms, or social supports in the school setting. Teens and adults with a new autism diagnosis can start to make informed choices about careers, college applications, and transition plans for living away from home and family supports. Structured social skills groups and training may also help those with high functioning autism "decode" the people and situations they find confusing or stressful.
What are some signs of autism in children?
Enjoying highly repetitive actions or experiences likes spinning in circles or watching the same video or portion of a video over and over many times.
Speech that repeats you when they are not being funny or mocking you, also called echolalia.
Preferring to play on their own almost all the time.
Making lots of patterns with toys or lining them up, but not showing imagination or a story in the play.
Having a lot of trouble reading the facial expressions and/or emotions of others.