Autism Spectrum Disorder | ASD

Autism spectrum disorder was previously known as autism and Asperger syndrome. People with autism learn and behave differently than others. Their social skills can be different, too.  Autism begins in early development and can continue throughout life. Early diagnosis and intervention can help children build skills and overcome challenges.

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders that can cause difficulties in social interactions, communication, and behavior. The disorder was previously known as Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The condition begins in early development and continues throughout life. ASD affects everyone a little differently, which is why people are diagnosed as part of a spectrum.

The cause of ASD is unknown. However, medical professionals believe it is caused by a combination of factors involving genes and the environment.

 ASD risk factors include:

  • Having a family member with ASD

  • Premature birth and low birth weight

  •  Parents older than 35 or 40

  • Other genetic conditions

ASD diagnosis

There are no medical tests for doctors to use to diagnose ASD.  In evaluating patients, doctors can look at language abilities and thinking skills. They may also order blood and hearing tests to make sure the patients have no other illnesses or disorders. Pediatric psychologists, psychiatrics, speech language pathologists or developmental pediatricians may help with ASD diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of ASD begin to show in early development. Be sure to speak with your child’s provider or pediatrician with concerns about your child’s health and development, as early intervention can improve symptoms.

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Autism spectrum disorder symptoms

Different autism spectrum disorders can show different symptoms. Common ASD symptoms include:

  • Low or high intelligence

  • Specific and detailed memory

  • Auditory and visual learning preference

  • Excellence in math, science, music and art

  • Restricted interests

  • Repeated or unusual behaviors

  • Unusual words, gestures, facials expressions or tone of voice during communication

  • Unusual response to other’s emotions

  • Trouble reading other’s expressions and understanding their point of view

  • Difficulty holding conversations and keeping eye contact

  • Trouble responding to their name or other efforts to gain their attention

  • Strong focus on routines and order

  • Refrains from using common social signals

  • Sensitivity to stimuli

Doctors who notice symptoms of autism spectrum disorder will evaluate patients further.

Autism spectrum disorder treatment

Behavior and communication therapy can help

Treatments vary depending on symptoms and behaviors. Examples of treatment options include behavior and communication therapy, support groups, skills training and medications for specific symptoms. Many behavior and communication therapies can help patients with ASD learn to understand social signals and communicate easier.

Speak with your child’s provider if you are concerned about your child’s development and ASD. 

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At Maine Behavioral Healthcare, we treat the whole person. We care about your physical and mental health, so we are making it easier than ever before to access behavioral healthcare through your primary care provider. We are locating counseling, therapy and many other behavioral and mental healthcare services at physician and provider practices. Contact your primary care provider today to find community care that is close to home.

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