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Autism Spectrum/Aspergerís Disorder
Over the last several years there has been increasing interest in conditions of the Autistic Spectrum.† Currently. According to the DSM-IV-TR (the current Diagnostic Manual used in psychiatry), Autistic Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder, along with Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS are contained in Autism Spectrum Disorder.† The current diagnosis system will soon be replaced by DSM-V.† This system will most likely combine these conditions all into one diagnosis, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).† This change represents acknowledgement that Autism and Asperger’s Disorder are not really separate conditions, but that both reflect a common process that both fall into a wider “spectrum”.
Typically, the impairments seen in ASD consist of abnormalities in development of social and communication skills, as well as repetitive behaviors and unusual behaviors.
Examples of potential signs of Autistic Disorder could include:
- Impairment in social interaction (in use of non-verbal behaviors for communication, peer relationships, and lack of social or emotional reciprocity)
- Impairments in communication (delay in development of spoken language, difficulty in initiating or maintaining conversation with others, stereotyped or repetitive use of language, and lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe plat appropriate to developmental level)
- Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests (abnormal preoccupation with restricted subjects, inflexible adherence to routine, repetitive movements such as “hand flapping” or preoccupation with parts of objects).
Current criteria for Asperger’s Disorder have been thought of as having no much less delay in cognitive development and no significant delay in language. However, the difference between Autism and Asperger’s appears to be more a matter of degree of impairment and not because there are fundamentally different processes involved.† Recent studies have also indicated that the same person might receive the diagnosis of Autism at one center and the diagnosis of Asperger’s at another, depending on the leanings of the clinicians at each center.
One of the ways that a psychiatrist can be helpful to individuals on the “Spectrum” is to provide help managing the other conditions that often affect the quality of life for those individuals on the Spectrum.
Conditions like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and ADHD frequently occur along with Autism/Asperger’s Disorder.† Getting help with managing these conditions can greatly improve and individual’s ability to function and also overall quality of life. Often medication treatments are very beneficial and life enhancing.
There is now available much information about Autism/Asperger’s Disorder. An excellent place to start would be the information page on Autistic Spectrum Disorders of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Another useful site is the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Also available is an NIMH pamphlet, in pdf file, A Parent’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder.