A child with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) does not develop normally in several ways, such as having problems communicating and getting along with others. ASD used to be called by different names:
The exact cause of ASD is not known.
The symptoms of ASD vary. No two children with ASD are exactly alike.
Most children with ASD seem to have a lot of trouble learning the give-and-take of dealing with people. They may also have trouble controlling their emotions. This can take the form of crying or verbal outbursts.
There is a wide range of communication problems. Some children with ASD never talk. Some talk or make noises early in life and then stop. Others are just slow to start and don't start to talk until age 5 to 9. Those who do speak often use language in unusual ways. They also don't always understand tone of voice or nonverbal communication, such as a smile, a wink, or a frown.
Children with ASD sometimes repeat movements. Some flap their arms or walk on their toes a lot. They also develop strong habits and routines. They may get very upset at the slightest change in routine.
Children with ASD may also have problems with their senses. Many are very sensitive to certain sounds, textures, tastes, and smells.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's development at each well child visit. Tell your provider about any concerns you have and any behavior that seems unusual. As a parent or caregiver, you are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in your child. Do not ignore problems, thinking that your child is just a little slow and will "catch up." Early treatment helps reduce symptoms. It increases your child's ability to grow and learn new skills.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about the child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines your child is taking. Your provider will check for a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. Your child may have tests or scans to check for other possible causes of the symptoms. Because it can be inherited, your healthcare provider may want to screen your other children for symptoms.
If your healthcare provider thinks your child may have autistic spectrum disorder, he or she will refer you to specialists such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, or neurologist. They can do more testing and advise you about treatment. Your school district may also provide testing services for your child.
There is no one best treatment for all children with ASD. Before you decide on your child's treatment, find out what your options are. Learn as much as you can and make your choice for your child's treatment based on your child's needs.
Usually children are placed in public schools and the school district provides all needed services. These will include working with a speech therapist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, social worker, school nurse, or aide. You may want to visit public schools in your area to see the type of program they offer to special needs children.
A team of professionals will help evaluate your child and put a plan together. You may also ask your healthcare provider to review the plan. Ask and find out all the services that may be available for your child.
Treatment will also include doing activities at home.