What You Need to Know About ASD

Written by: Charles Smith, M.S.
What You Need to Know About ASD

What Exactly is ASD?

According to the DSM-5-TR, the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is comprised of Asperger syndrome and the other autism-related diagnoses which make up the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects how children interact and communicate with others. The disorder is called a spectrum disorder because children land anywhere on the autism spectrum. Children with ASD begin to show symptoms at an early age continuing to adulthood. It is still a mystery to healthcare experts why some children develop ASD. It is suspected to be linked to genetics and possibly triggered by something exposed in the environment triggering those genes.

Symptoms of ASD and How to Diagnose

The onset of ASD symptoms become evident during early childhood, between ages 12 and 24 months. These symptoms can show up earlier or later. Early symptoms may have a negative impact on language or social development. The DSM-5 divides symptoms of ASD into two categories:

1. problems with communication and social interaction
2. restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities

To be diagnosed with autism, a person must experience symptoms in both of these categories. Additional symptoms experienced by some autistic people include:

  • delayed movement, language, or cognitive skills
  • seizures
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea
  • excessive worry or stress
  • unusual levels of fear (either higher or lower than expected)
  • hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive behaviors
  • unexpected emotional reactions
  • unusual eating habits or preferences
  • unusual sleep patterns
  • signs of autism and babies include declining eye contact, little pointing or gesturing
  • limited or no response to their name, Reduced emotion in facial expressions

Additionally, autistic children tend to have difficulty expressing their feelings or understanding others beginning at approximately 36 months. As they get older, they might exhibit very limited verbal skills. On the other hand, some autistic children might develop advanced language skills for a particular subject that they find interesting. Meanwhile, they might have difficulty communicating about other things. As children with ASD begin talking, one may notice an unusual tone ranging from high-pitched and to robotic or flat. Some children with ASD show signs of hyperlexia, which involves reading beyond their age and grade level. Some children on the spectrum begin reading as early as age 2 but may lack reading comprehension. Hyperlexia can be found in 84% of children on the spectrum. Autistic children often have difficulty socializing with their peers and sharing their emotions with others. Maintaining back-and-forth conversation can be extremely difficult and nonverbal communication (i.e., maintaining eye contact or body language) might also remain difficult and persist throughout adulthood.

What Can Parents Do to Assist Their Child with ASD

As parents prepare their child for school, here are some tips: Share information with school personnel on how ASD affects your child! At the beginning of the school year, parents can help their child alleviate anxiety and concerns by providing them with a map of the school, a copy of their schedule for the fall, a copy of the student handbook and rules, and a list of clubs/extracurricular activities. It will be helpful for parents to tour the school with their child and ensure that they have all their school supplies and are familiar with locker combinations. For the first two weeks or so, parents should practice getting up in the mornings with their child to help establish a routine early.

Other Suggested Parental Tips:

  • Identify school personnel for the student to contact if they are having a difficult time adjusting or understanding a certain situation.
  • Make sure that your child understands how to navigate the lunchroom and is familiar with the lunchroom rules.
  • If possible, obtain pictures of your student’s teachers, staff, bus driver, school counselors, etc. Make sure to match names with pictures for your son or daughter.
  • In some certain cases, classmates of your child may need to be informed of their condition. This should be provided in a way that will not stigmatize the student on the autism spectrum. Have the discussion with the teacher about how classmates will be informed.
  • Parents should establish the best methods and times for communicating with teachers to monitor child’s behavior outside of the normal mid-term grades, report cards, or parent-teacher conferences.
  • Parent’s main goal should be to ensure that all parties involved work collaboratively on behalf of your child.
  • Remember, by being proactive and creating a positive working relationship with your child’s school, all challenges can be met, and your child can have a positive and successful school year.

In conclusion, it is important for parents to understand that their child is more than their diagnosis and to help them know their strengths so they can reach their full potential. Parents, remember to always advocate for your child through individualized education plans and counseling services while remaining grateful for your child.