Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological and developmental disorder marked by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. The symptoms of autism can range widely (spectrum). This means that each individual with autism is unique.

Some autistic individuals require minimal or no support, while others may require daily assistance from a parent or caretaker. Autism spectrum disorder affects people of all genders, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels. Autism is considered a “developmental disorder” since its symptoms often manifest during a child’s first two years of life, even though a diagnosis can be made at any age. Approximately one in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD in the U.S.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder

There are three varying levels of ASD, each representing a different degree of disability. The professionals at Turning Point Centers treat the following:

Level 1

Level 1 – This is the mildest form of autism, but people falling into this category still require support. This level involves milder symptoms but may still include difficulty communicating appropriately with others. For example, they may find it difficult to engage in back-and-forth conversations or understand social cues or body language. This level was formerly known as “Asperger’s syndrome.”

In addition to the level Turning Point addresses, there are also the following levels:

Level 2

Level 2 – Individuals in this category require extensive help, as they demonstrate more pronounced verbal and social communication difficulties than individuals diagnosed with level 1 autism. They also tend to have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors that can hinder them from functioning or participating in certain situations.

Level 3

Level 3 – This is the most severe form of autism, characterized by significant difficulties with social communication and restricted or repetitive behaviors or habits. People within this category may be nonverbal or use very few words of intelligible speech. They may also show very limited initiation of social interaction and response to others. People at this level require the most care and support, including full-time aides.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of Level 1 ASD can vary from one person to another. However, they generally include the following:

  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Difficulty having a casual conversation
  • Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills, such as distance, volume, or tone during conversations
  • Difficulty switching between activities
  • Behavioral rigidity and inflexibility
  • Executive functioning limitations
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, or other stimuli
  • Severe social anxiety
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Uncoordinated movements or clumsiness

Exemplary focus and endurance, an aptitude for recognizing patterns, and meticulous attention to detail are just a few of the strengths exhibited by those with ASD at the Level 1 spectrum. However, most other symptoms are usually obstacles to overcome.

Risk Factors

Although the primary causes of ASD remain unknown, studies suggest that many factors, including genetic, environmental, and biological, can increase the likelihood of a person developing the condition. These risk factors include:

  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having certain genetic conditions, such as Fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome
  • Experiencing complications at birth
  • Being born to older parents

Males tend to be diagnosed with ASD more often than females. However, this ratio is gradually changing.

Diagnosis and Treatment

ASD is usually diagnosed in early childhood when parents notice significant developmental delays and behavioral issues. However, when the symptoms are mild or mistaken for another condition, ASD may not be noticed until later. As of yet, there are no diagnostic criteria for ASD tailored to adult patients. However, the existing DSM-5 criteria can be modified for this age range. Adults with ASD are often diagnosed after a physician conducts in-person assessments.

Your primary care physician is the best place to start if you want to get examined for ASD since they can rule out any underlying medical issues that could be influencing your behavior. If further evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist is needed, your primary care physician may make that recommendation.

Treatment for ASD usually includes:

  • Medication – Healthcare providers may prescribe medications to treat specific symptoms of ASD, such as irritability, aggression, repetitive behavior, and hyperactivity.
  • Life Skills & Self-Care – These programs help people with autism learn social communication and language skills, minimize behaviors that interfere with daily functioning, and learn life skills necessary to go to university or get a job.
  • Psychotherapy – Anxiety and depression can be alleviated using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In addition, a healthy family unit can be fostered through therapeutic family therapy.
  • Support Groups – These groups help you find support and fellowship through others on the spectrum.

If you are interested in learning more about the treatment options for ASD management, please get in touch with Turning Point Centers. If you or someone you care about has ASD, our trained clinicians can assist you in managing symptoms so that you can live a happier, healthier life.

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For more than 15 years, our nationally accredited programs have helped individuals and their loved ones learn to live healthy and fulfilling lives while experiencing all benefits of healing and recovery.
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval