One of the many problems encountered by individuals with autism , their families, and those who interact with them is the confusion regarding diagnostic criteria. Until May of 2013, an autism specialist might diagnose a child with autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). However, autism specialists tend to agree that these diagnoses do not accurately reflect the individual child’s deficits, given that the types and severity of symptoms children with autism experience vary widely. The new, official diagnostic criteria do not recognize autism types. Instead, they establish the guidelines for diagnostic criteria and symptom assessment.
New Criteria for an Autism Diagnosis
The new manual used to establish an autism diagnosis recognizes that the child must meet two criteria. The first involves social communication and social skills deficits. For example, the child may not be interested in playing with peers, may not participate in imaginative play, and may have trouble maintaining relationships. The child may also display lack of eye contact, and difficulties with body language, gestures, and facial expressions. Secondly, the child must display repetitive behaviors or unusual interests, such as hand flapping, lining up toys in a set pattern, being inflexible with regard to routines, or fixating on a particular interest such as trains. Additionally, the child may display repetitive speech and have atypical reactions to stimuli.
Severity of Autism Symptoms
Once a diagnosis of autism has been established, the autism specialist can consider which of three levels appropriately describes the severity of symptoms. Children with level one symptoms require support. They may be able to speak in full sentences, yet lack conversation skills, for example. Children who have level two symptoms require substantial support. Communication and interactions may be limited , and repetitive behaviors may cause social difficulties in multiple settings. Children with level three symptoms are considered to require very substantial support. They display severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and behaviors.
If you have questions about autism, the team at The Behavior Exchange can provide the answers. We’re on a mission to provide exceptional autism therapy near Dallas to help kids and their families overcome the many challenges associated with autism. To find out more or schedule a consultation with one of our autism therapists, call (972) 755-3804.