Autism Spectrum Disorder FAQ

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological condition caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is characterized by deficits in social skills, communication skills, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. These deficits all begin before a child is 3 years old. Autism can manifest itself in a wide spectrum from “high functioning” where the deficits are slight and do not obviously impact an individual’s daily living, to more severe forms in which an individual is unable to communicate or take care of himself/herself. Clinicians often group individuals with a variety of the above symptoms into a single category called “Autism Spectrum Disorders” (ASD) which includes Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Pervasive Developmental Disorders, and others.

Autism differentiates itself from Asperger’s syndrome in that individuals with Asperger’s do not demonstrate a language delay, and often actually demonstrate above average verbal skills. Though hyper-verbal, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome still lack the ability to understand the full context and pragmatics of language, and will be very concrete in their language patterns.

In addition, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders often have difficulty with executive functioning. Executive functioning involves having the attention, organization, sequencing, and problem solving skills required to solve life’s everyday problems. Individuals with poor executive functioning skills are often referred to by teachers as “being very bright, but having no common sense”. Even though he may be highly intelligent, the individual may have great difficulty navigating through everyday problems such as paying bills, traffic, meal planning, social situations, making a doctor’s appointment, finding employment, etc.