Autism Spectrum Disorder Testing

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs, to some degree depending on the person, the ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted interests, activities, and repetitive behaviors. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.

Autism spectrum disorder is now defined as a single disorder that includes disorders that were previously considered separate: Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. The term Autism “Spectrum” Disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity of the disorder. Asperger’s syndrome is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.

Some people show signs of ASD in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they’ve already acquired. Each child with ASD is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior and level of severity — from low functioning to high functioning. Severity is based on social communication impairments and the restrictive and repetitive nature of behaviors, along with how these impact the ability to function. Early diagnosis and intervention is most helpful and can improve skill and language development.

Difficulties with Social Communication and Interaction

Individuals with ASD evidence problems with the social and emotional give-and-take in social settings. For example, they show an inability to engage in normal back-and-forth conversation, a reduced ability to share experiences or emotions with others, or problems initiating or responding to social interactions. They have difficulty using or understanding nonverbal cues, problems making eye contact, problems using and understanding body language or gestures, or may lack facial expressions. Developing, maintaining and understanding relationships, for example, difficulty adjusting behavior to suit various social situations, problems sharing imaginative play or in making friends, or a lack of interest in others are other symptoms. Other social interaction symptoms include:

  • Fails to respond to his or her name
  • Resists cuddling and holding and seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her own world
  • Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expressions
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or may lose ability to say words or sentences
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm; using singsong or robot-like speech
  • May repeat words or phrases but doesn’t understand how to use them
  • Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions
  • Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Doesn’t point at or bring objects to share interest
  • Inappropriately approaches social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive

Unusual Patterns of Behavior

  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping, or may perform activities that could cause personal harm, such as head-banging
  • Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  • May be uncooperative or resistant to change
  • Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language
  • May be fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the “big picture” of the subject
  • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch, and yet oblivious to pain
  • Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
  • May become fixated on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
  • May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or eating only foods with a certain texture

Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disorder, and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there are probably many causes. Both genetics and environment may play a role.

As they mature, some children with ASD become more engaged with others and show fewer disturbances in behavior. Those with the least severe problems may eventually lead normal or near-normal lives. Others, however, continue to have difficulty with language or social skills. Adolescence can sometimes worsen behavioral problems.

A thorough Neuropsychological Assessment is critical in determining diagnosis and level of severity. While there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, intensive, early treatment can significantly improve the lives of many people