Findings In Autism
Autism is defined as a neurological disorder characterized by an impaired ability for social interaction and communication. Until recently, autism was publicly classified between low and high functioning. Low functioning autism was categorized as individuals having severe impairments in speech, academic performance, and social behavior, while high functioning autism meant that a person is nearer to the norms of public expectations, but not entirely.
…to others, including many autistic individuals, autism isn’t a disorder, but rather a different way of being in the world—a natural human variation. — Mona Delahooke, Ph.D.
These classifications, however, are not specific to the actual diagnosis of autistic behavior; so much so that autism is now defined by using a spectrum that grades the condition between mild to severe – wherein mild is what people would commonly classify as high-functioning. This is collectively reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the following discusses some of its key points.
Levels Of ASD
Released in 2013, the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, consolidated all autism-based conditions under the umbrella of ASD. What this says is autism is now treated as a disorder with a varying range of severity instead of any falling into a distinct type of disorder at any one time. Notably, Asperger’s Syndrome was linked to autism due to resembling similar symptoms, but DSM-5 has since sited the difference and was removed from an autism diagnosis.
The ASD puts autism under a spectrum of varying severity, and these are three levels categorized as:
- Level 1. Mildest level of ASD. Symptoms here do not impair work, academic or social capacity as much and could pass off as normal or high-functioning.
- Level 2. Moderate level of ASD. This requires more support in speech and social skills.
- Level 3. Severe level of ASD. Requires close and intensive support may require aides full-time
In the past 40 years, autism diagnoses have increased tenfold, and since the last DSM revision in 2000, it has increased 78%. Now, I’m no mathematician, but it looks to me like the greatest percentage of increase has been over the past decade. — Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC
Treatment For ASD
ASD treatment is not standardized and is instead fitted to one’s unique condition. Diagnosis is also not distinct, but instead tests three common tenets to determine autism severity; namely, verbal or emotional development, social capability, and non-verbal communication ability. The treatment focuses on the development of these tenets, usually therapy and training, some of which include:
- Speech Therapy – is a treatment program facilitated by a language or speech pathologists on children with ASD who have speech or language disabilities or delays. They are being taught to speak correctly.
- Physical Therapy – is a necessary treatment program for children with ASD who have struggled with posture, balance, and strength. They are given exercises to improve their muscle strength and control, which then increases their motor skills and other developmental abilities.
- Occupational Therapy – is a treatment program provided by a licensed occupational therapist for special needs children, including those who have ASD, to develop their fine and gross motor skills, and their daily living skills, among others.
- Sensory Training – is a treatment program for kids with ASD to improve their sensory system.
- Applied Behavioral Analysis – is a treatment program for ASD kids to help them and teach them how to manage their behavior.
Medication can also be utilized for the treatment of more severe symptoms.
With this info, it’s hoped that people would ween off the use of high-functioning as a term to describe mild autism and use the now verified definition of ASD. Clarifications like these can ultimately lead to less misinformation, better objectivity, and more precise understanding of the plights of people with autism.
Most importantly, listen to that small, still, voice within that reminds you that you know your child better than anyone. — Rachel Oppenheimer, PsyD