Understanding the Autism Spectrum

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Autism is not just one simple condition. It is referred and diagnosed based on the autism spectrum, meaning there are many different variations of autism. The disorder is classified as the same in most circumstances, but it affects individuals in very different ways. This means that children with autism will have different challenges they must face and different obstacles they must overcome. However, at the same time, this means that they will have different unique abilities that make them special and unique in their own way.

Types of Autism

There are some issues that children face across the spectrum. These include problems to varying degrees concerning communication, social skills, and empathy, along with behavior issues. Even for the different types of disorders, these difficulties vary.

The three main types of the behavioral condition are autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive development disorder. There are other types of autism spectrum disorders, but they are so rare that they are sometimes classified outside of the autism spectrum and can be considered separate medical conditions.

General autism is the “classic” form of the condition, and it is also the most severe. Children with full-blown autism on the spectrum will face many more difficulties growing and developing socially and mentally. Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of autism that is sometimes referred to as “high-functioning autism.” Children with Asperger’s will face many issues that autistic children will face, but they may not be as extreme. Pervasive development disorders are referred to as “atypical autism.”

On a positive note, only about 20 percent of the children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder actually have classic autism. The rest of the children who are on the spectrum are somewhere in between. They still have some struggles, but they may not be as severe as autism.

What are the signs and symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder?

Just as autism spectrum disorders have varying degrees, the symptoms also vary for each child.
Basic social interaction can be difficult. There may be several symptoms associated with problems in social interactions. Some include a resistance to make eye contact, the inability to understand body language, facial expressions, or nonverbal cues, a resistance to approach others in a social setting, a resistance to being touched, and a lack of interest in others’ interests and hobbies.

Speech and language development may also be difficult for children with an autism spectrum disorder. It may take longer than usual for them to learn to speak, and some may not speak at all, or very rarely. Children may speak in an abnormal tone of voice, repeat themselves often, and have difficulty communicating with others.
Finally, children on the spectrum may exhibit strange or restricted behaviors. They may constantly be moving, usually with repetitive hand or foot movements, and attachments to some objects may become obsessive. The condition is also characterized by a strong need for routine and a fascination with moving parts of a toy, rather than the toy in its entirety.

As noted, these symptoms fluctuate and change for each child. Some children who are not on the spectrum at all may experience one or more of these difficulties. Because of this, disorders associated with the autism spectrum are very difficult to test and diagnose.