What is Autism?

In 1978 the very first DSM manual (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) was published; this manual helped mental health professionals evaluate their patient’s symptoms by offering clearly listed criteria for a proper diagnosis. Over the past few decades, the DSM has been updated 4 times to include the most effective and up to date standards. In 2013 the DSM model was updated from DSM-IV to DSM-V. The DSM-IV had five different areas that someone being evaluated for autism could be diagnosed as. These five areas were: 1) Autistic disorder, 2) Asperger’s disorder, 3) PDD-NOS, 4) Rett’s disorder, and 5) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Today, using the DSM-V, a professional will look at the person’s social/communicational skills and any repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. Due to the fact that autism truly operates as a spectrum, the five areas listed above were done away with and are now all in one diagnosis known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. As defined by the Autism Society of America, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum condition’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.” (http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, “ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).” (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html) All in all, autism is on the rise– spreading awareness, recognizing early symptoms, and supporting one another are our greatest hopes.

Sources:

“About Autism | Autism Society.” Autism Society of America. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

“Data & Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

** Please note that this is just a summarized synopsis of autism. Please look elsewhere on the internet and in books for a more in depth understanding of this disorder.

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