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Help With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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

Recent Blog Posts
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  • Jul 21, 2017
Friends can be Key in Coping with Mental Health Challenges

Friendships and social interaction are important for everyone’s mental health and well-being, but they can be particularly important to someone who has experienced an episode of psychosis.

  • Jul 21, 2017
Looking to Non-Traditional Approaches to Enhance Mental Health Care

You likely have heard the terms complementary or alternative medicine, or more recently, integrative medicine. But what do those terms mean? Are they all the same? And what do they mean in relation to mental health care?

  • Jun 29, 2017
Do Supplements and Special Diets Help Children with Autism?

Parents of children with autism often turn to a variety of therapies and treatments, many not supported by science, to help their children. Nutritional interventions such as special diets and nutritional supplements are commonly used. Dietary supplements, are used by 56 percent of children age 2 to 11 with autism spectrum disorder, according to one study.

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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’s Story

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.

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MAY 23, 2017

Fighting to fit in: Growing up with autism

SBS (Australia)

For adults with autism, the early years navigating school and playground friendships can be the toughest. But a diagnosis can provide answers and a light at the end of the tunnel.

MAY 16, 2017

The genetic architecture of risk for autism spectrum disorder

Medical Xpress

A new study of inherited genetic risk indicates that common genetic variations throughout the genome act in addition to rare, deleterious mutations in autism-associated genes to create risk for autism.

MAY 17, 2017

Screenings can miss autism spectrum disorder, CHOP study finds

Many children who have autism spectrum disorder were missed in early screenings, a new study from researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has found. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors screen children for autism at 18 and 24 months, said Dr. Whitney Guthrie, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Autism Research at CHOP and the study's lead researcher.