Autism is a behavioral disorder that is located on a spectrum of other such disorders. This range of behavioral disorders is most commonly referred to as the autistic spectrum. Located on this spectrum, persons with autism all experience their disorder in a totally unique manner.
Given that autism is a blurry category, located indeterminately on a spectrum of similar disorders, it is essential that we highlight the characteristics of this disorder compared to those it most closely resembles.
Autism vs. Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is grouped amongst a number of similar behavioral disorders that are termed autism spectrum disorders. Autism spectrum disorders are all considered to be developmental disabilities that impede a child’s development in very different ways. Common ASD’s include Aspergers, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified, and classic autism.
Commenting on this spectrum of disorders, and their resonances in childrens’ everyday lives, Dr. Bradley Peterson states that the area most seriously affected by autism is that of “social interactions.” Dr. Peterson expands on this claim by stating that the conventional back and forth between people in dialogue “is almost always impaired in autistic children.” Children affected by autism also have significant difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and desires. In addition, they may engage in repetitive—bordering on obsessive—behaviors.
In order for a child to be diagnosed with autism, or another ASD, these symptoms need to become manifest by the age of three.
Other symptoms of autism include:
- Disinterest in socializing
- Hyper-awareness and interest in tactile objects as opposed to people and conversations
- Inability to recognize one’s own name
- Lack of empathy for the experiences of others
- Highly repetitive behaviors. A few common ones are rocking back and forth and twirling
- Developing at a different rate from other children. Will not reach certain cognitive and / or physical milestones at the same pace or at all.
What causes autism is a site of extreme uncertainty. However research continues to move forward and there are new findings all the time which provide useful information about the causes of autism, and also, how autism affects the brain. Research is suggesting more and more that autism is not necessarily a condition that children are born with, but one that develops in infancy.
Dr. Peterson states: “We do know that some children [as infants and toddlers] appear quite normal in most, if not all, respects.” These are the same children that years later, go on to develop autism. Medical professionals reinforce that these nuances in autism are becoming increasingly well-understood. We should remain hopeful about gleaning a more well-rounded understanding of autism well into the future.