Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are the general terms that refer to a group of brain development disorders, which include:
- Pervasive developmental disorder
- Autistic disorder
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
ASD presents communication, behavioral and social challenges for people with the disorder. ASD have a wide degree of variation in the way it affects people with the disorder. The characteristics of ASD can present themselves as ranging from mild to severe and the characteristics and level on which they can present themselves vary from one person to another. A person with ASD could present with a few or all the common characteristics of the disorder.
The Characteristics of Autism
Some of the common characteristics of ASD can include:
- Restrictions and challenges on social interactions
- The need for repetitiveness and uniformity
- Repetitive sensory behavior, including one or more of the five senses
- Repetitive body movements or actions
- Uniquely noticeable variation of abilities
- Anxiety disorders
- Challenges relating to spoken communication
- Impairment of cognitive, organizational skills
- Challenges on motor skills
- Emotional disorders
Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders cannot be achieved by administrating a single test but rather a panel of tests, assessments, and evaluations across a number of medical and specialty professionals. These evaluations can include:
- Interviewing the parent or caregiver to get information on family history relating to medical and mental disorders, information relating to the person’s development, medical history, and behavior
- Medical examinations and testing
- Hearing and speech related testing
- Observation to measure development and motor skills
- Assessment of communication skills
- Cognitive and functional assessments
- Evaluation of motor skills
Autism is treatable and a number of effective programs, interventions, and treatments that address the symptoms, characteristics, and challenges presented by autism are available. They teach people with ASD skills that can help them lessen disruptive behavior and obtain greater independence. As the characteristics of Autism vary from one person to another, these programs are more effective if based on the assessment of the individual and adjusted to the individual’s needs, strengths and weaknesses.
Misconceptions Give Rise to Restrictions
A lack of understanding, common beliefs and stigmas still impose restrictions and isolate people with ASD. Some people fail to understand that Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders are general terms that describe a number of brain development. Spectrum disorders are general terms that describe a number of brain development disorders, characteristics and challenges represent themselves variably different from one person to another. This results in them not having access to adequate treatment, intervention or education that aims to address the characteristics they present. Blanketing ASD under a single treatment umbrella will not be effective on an individual level, which in turn will impose restrictions on their independence and functionality.
World Health Organization (WHO) Autism Fact Sheet
- Worldwide, an estimated 1 in 160 children has an ASD
- ASD is treatable
- Treatment can reduce the difficulties and challenges presented by ASD and can have a positive impact on the overall well-being and quality of life on those with ASD and their caregivers
- Broader actions for accessible and supportive cultures for ASD are needed
- Some people with ASD are subjected to stigmas, discrimination, and even human rights violations
- Globally, there are inadequate support and services for people with ASD
Success Begins With Education
The WHO through consultation with a number of experts, parents, and associations globally as well as under the support of Autism Speaks have developed a Parent Skills Training Package, WHO Parent Skills Training Package for caregivers of children with developmental disorders aimed to educate parents and caregivers of children with development disorders.
This plan aims to enhance government’s commitment to autism advocacy while providing the guidance and knowledge to address policies and action plans for mental health and disabilities. Through sharing knowledge and offering support globally, this does not only strengthens the foundation of framework and policies but it also increases support structures worldwide.