What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder, often manifested in early childhood, characterized by impaired communication and social interactions, and repetitive and/or restrictive behaviors. While individuals ASD often exhibit similar characteristics, the full manifestation severity of these characteristics varies from individual to individual.
Under current diagnostic standards (DSM-5) children with a diagnosis of ASD must meet the following criteria:
1. Social and communication deficits (All 3 criteria must be met):
2. Restricted interests/repetitive behaviors (at least 2 behaviors must be exhibited)
3. Characteristics must be present in early childhood, even if they are not fully exhibited
until a later age
4. Combined characteristics limit and impair daily living
Autism is one of the most frequent childhood disorders affecting approximately 1 in 88 children, with boys affected almost five times more frequently than girls.
The cause of autism is poorly understood with many researchers believing that autism may be a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Many experts believe that diagnosis can be established when a child is approximately 18 months of age, unfortunately, many children are not diagnosed until they are 4 years or older, limiting the opportunity for behavior modifying therapy early in life.
Several recent studies have reported improved developmental outcomes associated with early intervention therapies for children with autism. Based on these studies, early identification of children at risk of autism is essential because it allows for earlier intervention.
Identifying methods to detect autism in children when they are much younger may make it possible to provide interventional care much earlier.