Curated and updated for the community by APA
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that can cause problems with thinking, feeling, language and the ability to relate to others.
See definition, symptoms, & treatment
Peer support refers to people with the same types of problems helping each other. The concept of peer support has been used for many years among people with addictions, for example in Alcoholic Anonymous where people with “lived experience” help others to recover. The use of peer support with people with mental illness is more recent, particularly peer support in a professional capacity as part of the mental health care team.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recently produced a guide for parents that provides a good place to start. While it clearly can’t provide all the answers that will be different for every individual child, it provides a good overview of options available, potential risks and benefits, questions to ask, and treatments to avoid.
You may be familiar with online access to your medical records and possibly to your doctor’s notes. More than 12 million Americans now have online access to their health care provider’s clinical notes. This access is referred to as OpenNotes.
Autism Speaks Walks
Find an affiliate in your community.
How early can autism be identified? What should parents do if they are concerned their young child may have autism?
Some of the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be noticed before the age of 1, although a reliable diagnosis by an autism specialist can be made in children as young as 18 months of age. Unfortunately many children end up waiting until after their 4th birthday to be diagnosed with ASD. Delays in seeking an initial assessment and limited access to specialists are just a couple of factors that help to explain this delay. Children who have less severe ASD, or are from minority backgrounds, tend to be diagnosed later than those with severe symptoms. Researchers are developing ways of being able to diagnose autism at even younger ages, such as using eye tracking technologies. The diagnosis of autism is typically based on a clinical examination, which is often supported with other information and tests. There is no single scan or blood test that can independently diagnose autism.
My advice to parents is to trust their gut instinct when they are worried about their child and to seek the advice of their primary care pediatrician. This general assessment may then lead to a referral to a specialist who will perform a more comprehensive evaluation. Parents should also feel empowered to ask for a specialist opinion if they do not feel adequately reassured by a primary care evaluation. More
Can children “grow out” of autism?
A small minority of children show considerable improvement in their ASD symptoms following diagnosis. While ASD has historically been considered a life-long condition, recent research has shown that the outcomes associated with an ASD diagnosis can vary considerably. Some people who were diagnosed with ASD in their youth may improve dramatically, and show little difference to people who have never had the diagnosis.
Whether these individuals “grew out” of autism, or simply responded exceptionally well to the therapeutic interventions, remains up for debate. One should also question if the initial diagnosis of ASD was accurate in these cases. At the moment it is difficult to identify which children will “grow out” of autism, although those who have less severe symptoms and those who obtain early access to the appropriate therapies appear to have better outcomes. More
About the Expert:
Arshya Vahabzadeh, M.D. Vice President, Health Strategy and Communications Brain Power, LLC
Adam, a 12-year-old boy, was brought in by his mother for psychiatric evaluation. He had temper tantrums that were causing problems for him at school. She said that school had always been stressful for Adam and that it had become worse after he entered middle school.
Have a Story of Your Own to Share?
Find a psychiatrist in your area today.
FEB 17, 2017
As more people with autism and ADHD begin to advocate for themselves at work, some employers are changing their workplaces. Last year Ernst & Young initiated a pilot program to recruit and hire college graduates who have been diagnosed with autism.
FEB 16, 2017
In the case of autism few drugs have proven effective in trials, and several have failed due to poor design. Just two drugs, risperidone and aripiprazole, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for autism and are intended to relieve irritability.
FEB 15, 2017
By scanning the brains of babies whose siblings have autism, researchers say they have been able to make reasonably accurate forecasts about which of these high-risk infants will later develop autism themselves. The findings raise the prospect of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) months before children develop symptoms, a goal that has proved elusive.
Practice parameter on autism spectrum disorder – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
Webinar Series (recorded) – Interactive Autism Network
Autism Society of America
Screen Your Child – Autism Speaks
Autism spectrum disorder – American Academy of Pediatrics
Autism spectrum disorders – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Resources by State – Center for Parent Information and Resources
Physician Review By:
Scott Benson, M.D.