Autism spectrum disorder is a group of a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders that are evident by repetitive behavioral patterns, difficulty in social interactions and communication, as well as difficulty in processing sensory information . Autism spectrum disorder is composed of different types of disorders that include people who are partially impaired or completely disabled by their disorder. People who are diagnosed with any type of autism within the spectrum tend to also be assessed for intellectual disabilities and language impairments.
Autism spectrum disorders can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. As well as it can be overlooked and later diagnosed in adulthood. Some early signs are:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
When working with people who are in the autism spectrum it is important to remember that their needs and symptoms differ depending on the disorder. Being helpful starts with educating yourself of what the differences and needs are. The Autism Society offers helpful information on what autism is, what it’s like living with autism, resources for family members and resources in Spanish. The National Institute of Mental Health offers an in-depth list of symptoms to look for in adults and children. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke offers a comprehensive breakdown of autism and different resources for treatment.
Many forms of treatment exist to help people with autism manage acute behaviors and effectively communicate. One helpful form of treatment for autism spectrum disorder is art therapy. The Art of Autism explores how art can mold and reshape the lives of people with autism. In their site, they emphasize how art therapy promotes self-exploration and self-expression while building important skills, addressing deficits and problem behaviors. People with autism who have trouble speaking have found art therapy to be helpful in communicating through images. Art therapy has also been helpful in effectively relating client to therapist in situations where the client found it difficult to do one-on-one interactions. Art therapy has also been found to helpful when treating people with autism because it explores and addresses symptoms such as sensory processing problems, difficulty in relating with others, and tolerating unpleasant stimuli.
Being on any side of the autism spectrum can be considered a definitive and inflexible impairment. In specific case, it can be disabling and would require the person to have extra care. However, in some cases, people with autism can be independent, verbal, and have a social life. It may take treatment and support, but it is a strong possibility.