Recently, a friend at work asked if I would help her on a potential paper for a class she was taking. She asked me to give her a brief explanation or definition of Autism/Asperger’s Disorder. I am reposting my response here (mostly a summarization from the included links) because I think it works as a basic explanation for those who don’t know:
What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disability. The initial symptoms usually develop during the preschool years. The symptoms vary depending on the individual, but all forms of autism make social interaction and communication a challenge.
Healthcare providers classify autism as a “spectrum” disorder – “a group of disorders with similar features” — because of the marked differences in the way autism presents itself in different individuals. The symptoms of the disorders in the autistic spectrum vary in severity, but they all have common features, notably a difficulty with communication and learning social skills. The disorders included in the autism spectrum include:
·Autistic Disorder (“classic autism”)
·Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (often called PDD or PDD-NOS).
My son has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Disorder. Asperger’s is a high-functioning form of autism. Children (and adults) with this condition seem like everyone else. Just by looking at them you would not know that they have any sort of disorder.
People with Asperger’s tend to have average to above average intelligence. Their symptoms tend to present themselves in the form of a marked difficulty in social situations. They do not pick up social cues naturally. They often show symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, and have difficulty with variations from their routines. They sometimes avoid eye contact. They sometimes have long-winded, one-sided conversations. They often have trouble making and keeping friends. Noises, lights, and other external stimuli may bother them or distract them. Sometimes, kids with Asperger’s Disorder are called “Little Professors” because of the way they talk, study, and act. They often have a large vocabulary and use words and phrases that are above their grade level. They become focused on particular subjects and study them compulsively and obsessively. They sometimes have delayed motor development, having a hard time buttoning pants, tying shoes, and are often uncoordinated at sports.
Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back where I went over all the different tests used to diagnose Asperger’s in my son: http://southernweirdo.livejournal.com/63249.html. Here’s another link I think you might find interesting for a potential paper — http://www.theautismnews.com/2009/06/28/rise-in-autistic-adults-worries-caregivers/. It concerns what happens to people with “classic autism” once they become adults. There is a little bit about Asperger’s mentioned in the article as well. Everyone feels sorry for kids with autism, because kids are cute, but what happens when they grow up? I think this topic deserves more attention.