On 2 April, the world celebrated International Autism Day.
What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name given to four previously separate disorders, now recognized to be a single condition with different levels of symptom severity. ASD now encompasses autism, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.
ASD is characterized by:
- Deficits in social communication and social interaction
- Restricted repetitive behaviours, interests and activities
- There is often some degree of sensory processing disorder, typically either over-reactive (e.g. dislike being touched) or under-reactive (e.g. bangs objects, enjoys vibration)
- Symptoms are present in the early developmental period of life (typically the first 3 years of life)
- Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social and occupational areas of life
The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment or disability that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled.
ASD is primarily a social disability which presents early in life and presents with infinite variations within the spectrum. It can occur in individuals of all levels of intelligence.
Perhaps ASD is best described by Dr. Mary Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947), an American professor, a best-selling author, an autistic activist and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She also invented the “hug box“, a device to calm those on the autism spectrum.
“I find great value and meaning in my life and have no wish to be cured of being myself. If you want to help me then don’t try to change me to fit into your world. Grant me the dignity of meeting me on my own terms, recognize that we are equally alien to each other …, work with me to build more bridges between us.” – Temple Grandin (1999)
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