April is Autism Acceptance Month

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Condition Basics

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder. It affects a person's behavior. And it makes communication and social interactions hard.

ASD can range from mild to severe. The type of symptoms a person has and how severe they are varies. Some children may not be able to function without a lot of help from parents and other caregivers. Others may learn social and verbal skills and lead independent lives as adults.

Most people with ASD will always have some trouble when they communicate or interact with others. But finding and treating ASD early has helped many people who have ASD to lead full lives. They can do things like go to college and work.

ASD now includes conditions that used to be diagnosed separately. These include:

  • Autism.
  • Asperger's syndrome.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder.

You or your doctor might use any of these terms to describe the condition.

What causes it?

The exact cause of ASD isn't known. But many factors may be involved. A change in certain genes or an interaction of several genes may be responsible. And something in the environment may play a role in these gene changes. Studies show that vaccines don't cause ASD.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include communication and behavior problems, like delays in learning to talk and a strong need for sameness. Other symptoms include problems using or responding to gestures, problems making eye contact, and having unusual attachments to objects. Usually symptoms are noticed by age 2. But parents may notice them as early as age 1.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors use screening questions, exams, and tests to see how your child behaves and interacts with others. Talk with the doctor about what you've observed. The doctor will use all of this information, along with his or her judgment, to assess how your child is developing and look for signs of ASD.

How is ASD treated?

Treatment for ASD involves behavioral training. This training rewards appropriate behavior to teach children social and other skills. Treatment may also include structured teaching. This involves organizing a child's day and school setting to help a child learn new skills. Some children also need things like speech therapy, physical therapy, or medicine.

Visit MagellanHealthcare.com/about/bh-resources/mymh or call your program for confidential mental health resources.