Autism and related disorders are often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) because they describe a broad category of psychological disorders which include Autistic Disorder and Asperger's Disorder. Please refer to the sections below for more information about these difficulties and to learn about the best-supported treatment options.
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
ASDs are considered to belong to the category of pervasive developmental disorders because they begin during the first 3 years of life and have life-long implications. Although it is important to note that manifestations of ASD may vary greatly depending on the individual person, their developmental level, and a variety of other factors, the most common features are represented by the following three domains:
1. Impairments in social interaction. These may include problems in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction (e.g., making eye contact, appropriate facial expressions), failure to develop peer relationships at the appropriate developmental level, a lack of the spontaneous desire/ability to share enjoyment, interest, or achievements with other people, and difficulties understanding social or emotional reciprocity (e.g., turn-taking during conversation or play)
2. Impairments in communication. Marked and sustained impairment in communication often includes either a delay in or lack of the development of spoken language, problems with the ability to initiate or sustain conversations, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, and lack of spontaneous, make believe, or social-imitative play. In those who develop speech, often the pitch, intonation, rate, rhythm,or stress maybe abnormal
3. Narrow, restrictive behaviors. A child may be tend to be completely absorbed or preoccupied with one or more stereotyped or restricted patterns of interest (e.g., machines with motors). In addition, a child may rigidly perform certain behaviors, rituals, or routines (e.g., counting steps, separating food by colors), exhibit repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand flapping), and present a persistent preoccupation with parts of object.
As can be seen below, behavior therapy currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of young children with autism.
Source: Rogers, S. J., & Vismara, L. A. (2008). Evidence-based comprehensive treatments for early autism. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 8-38.