Autism is a developmental disorder, which is part of the 'autism spectrum disorder' group. Autism seems to occur more and more frequently. As a parent you often see that a child with autism is a little different from the rest, without really knowing what lies at the cause. Autism is often difficult to diagnose. Yet, a diagnosis generally proceeds faster than for some other disorders.
In This article we focus on the symptoms, causes, treatment, and support of broad spectrum ASD.
What is autism?
Autism is characterized as a developmental disorder. This means that the symptoms are already present at a young age. Autism is linked to symptoms in the following areas:
- Social adaptation
- Communicating and relationships
The symptoms and intensity of these symptoms can differ from person to person.
Types of autism?
Of course, autism has different ways of being expressed. Classic autism is one type of autism spectrum disorders. These also are different other autism spectrum disorders with similar symptoms or where problems in similar areas of life are determined. Examples of those include:
- Asperger syndrome
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Autism should not be confused with AD(H)D. AD(H)D is namely a behavioral disorder and shows therefore symptoms different from those in autism. It is, however, possible that the two disorders are diagnosed in the same person.
Communication and relationships?
First off, people with autism have issues with communication. For example, they might stare at people for too long, interrupt people,... In short, they have their own communication style and can stray from the 'acceptable norm of communication'. This communication style can also make other people feel uncomfortable, for example by being stared at for too long. The opposite can also be at work: not making any eye contact.
On top of this, it can be difficult for a child with autism already at a young age to interact with someone else. For example, they might have problems with smiling at others, greeting others, but even with sharing ideas when they are young. A child tends to know: 'if I stretch out my arms toward my parents, they will lift me up', for example. This is more difficult for a child with autism.
Furthermore, children with autism generally keep to themselves. They find it difficult to empathize with other children and adults, which means that they sometimes have 'odd' reactions. They also sometimes have 'inappropriate' reactions, because they do not really know how to react in certain situations. It can, for example, be so that children with autism do not talk to anyone when they are sad.
What about playing with kids?
WIth this, too, children with autism can have issues already at a young age. They communicate differently and enjoy playing on their own, which can lead to isolation. In many cases they do not really understand what the game is about. They also might have difficulties with acting out situations and using their fantasy just to pretend. This makes playing with other children, who at this age do few things other than reenacting or pretending to do things, difficult.
Focus on one hobby?
Oftentimes people with autism have one hobby about which they know everything and which takes up all of their time. The hobby comes up in nearly every conversation and they link things to the hobby in order to understand them more thoroughly. For example, someone might be fixated on taking care of fish and as a consequence know everything about these fish.
Repetition and stereotypical behavior?
Children with autism like repetition. For example, they might enjoy repeating a certain word, focus on one specific hobby/interest,...
Does autism frequently occur with other problems/disorders?
Autism often occurs together with other disorders. We see that there is a combination between autism and the following problems/disorders in many cases:
- Panic attacks
- Problems with food
- Self mutilation
- Sleep problems
- Hyperactivity, such as in ADHD
Causes of autism?
Broad spectrum ASD is a genetic disorder which is present from birth to death. It is not yet certain what the causes of this illness are. Yet, there are some ideas. For example, it is thought that the development of broad spectrum ASD is related to a defect of one of the oxytocin receptors.
To be able to diagnose autism, certain criteria must be met. The DSM, the most well-known diagnostic manual among psychiatrists and psychologists, handles the following criteria:
A.In total, at least 6 symptoms must be presented or at least 2 of 1 and 1 symptom of subpart 2 and 3.
1. Consistent problems regarding communication and relations in several life areas and contexts with at least 2 of the following symptoms. The following symptoms may occur simultaneously:
- Problems with social-emotional reciprocity. This can occur in different degrees.
- Problems with non-verbal communication. This, too, can occur in different degrees.
- Problems with making, maintaining, and understanding relationships. Can occur in different degrees.
- Problems with sharing of activities, goals, or fun.
2. Showing limited, repetitive behavior. This can express itself through behavior, activities, as well as interests. At least one of the symptoms below must manifest:
- Stereotypical or repetitive movements, language, or use of objects.
- Holding on to evenness, not being flexible regarding certain routines or patterns of verbal or non-verbal behavior.
- Fixation on limited interests, with an abnormal focus or intensity.
- Too weak or too strong reaction to certain sensory data or abnormal interest in sensory data from their environment.
- Constant preoccupation of certain parts of objects.
3. Problems with communication by setting at least one of the following symptoms:
- Absence or arrearage of spoken language (without trying to compensate this with other ways of communicating).
- If communication is present, difficulties with starting and continuing a conversation with someone else.
- Limited, repeated, and strange use of words.
- Problems with fantasy games in which someone is being imitated. This needs to be adapted to the level of development of the child.
B. Abnormality or arrearage regarding the functioning in at least one of the following contexts, where problems are determined before the child is 3 years of age:
- Social interactions
- Games, that make use of symbolism and fantasy
- Language with the goal of communicating in social context
C. Symptoms may not be caused by the disorder of Rett or a disintegration disorder from the young age.
Here we should note that only a psychiatrist may set a diagnosis. Nobody else is qualified to set the diagnosis autism.
There currently is no single treatment for the broad spectrum ASD. However, therapy around the oxytocin mechanism is being worked on. While we wait for an all-round treatment, there already are some techniques which can help in dealing with risk factors of autism, such as stress, and with leading a more balanced life.
There are certain methods which can support you if you suffer from broad spectrum ASD. FOr example, there are several therapeutic techniques which help to minimize stress and other risk factors and which help in teaching basic techniques to improve your productivity and balance. These techniques are also sometimes grouped under certain programs for autism and broad spectrum ASD.
"15Minutes4Me.com" is a therapeutic program, which was developed by psychologists and doctors to help you on a daily basis with:
- Stress reduction, in case stress has a negative influence on your happiness and quality of life
- Learning new, positive habits. Sometimes people with broad spectrum ASD suffer from small, lacking skills. The program helps to build up these skills into habits.
What can "15Minutes4Me.com" do for you?
In summary, the program by "15Minutes4Me.com" can help you with:
- Accepting symptoms. Not all symptoms can be treated. Acceptance is an important and useful process in therapy, which in turn can lead to less stress and fewer depressed complaints.
- Dealing with stress and problems which perpetuate stress. This way you indirectly work on minimizing risk factors of broad spectrum ASD, which keep symptoms in place.
- Learning basic skills, such as planning ahead, setting priorities, thinking in a solution focused way,... in order to improve your life quality and focus on goals.
Autism? Take the stress test!
Would you like to know how you can eliminate stress and live a more balanced life? Would you like to know how you, by eliminating stress, can reduce the intensity of your symptoms?
Then take the free stress test here! After taking the test, you will receive a video by Paul Koeck, MD, who explains more about your scores and how we can help you!