Five Minute Guides to ASD

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Autistic Spectrum Disorder Five Minute Guide

What is ASD?

ASD is a 'pervasive developmental disorder' meaning that those with it are developing differently to other children. It is a spectrum condition meaning that there is a very large variance in the severity and range of symptoms presented by each person. ASD is a life-long condition but very many children develop into successful adults.

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How does ASD affect a child?

A child with ASD will have differences or needs in four broad areas:

Social Communication, Social Interaction, Social Imagination and Sensory Needs

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Social Communication

Our social use of language varies depending on what is happening, where it happens and who is present. ASD children often need help to learn and apply these social rules. Our spoken language is also full of metaphors and idioms that ASD children tend to take literally. This misunderstanding can lead to confusion when trying to understand social conversations. ASD children can also struggle to read non-verbal communication, the messages in people’s body language that communicate how they feel and think.

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Social Interaction

Many ASD children have reduced interest in others and tend to play alone. Social communication difficulties can make interactions awkward and anxiety inducing and many ASD children will avoid social situations, particularly in new contexts. Some ASD children can be anxious about making eye contact. Sometimes ASD children will try to dominate social play and other interactions in order to be in control. They may have poor relationships with peers with complaints that they bully or are bullied.

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Social Imagination

ASD children often have obsessive interests, which they will focus on constantly, repeatedly playing with the same toy or learning everything about a specific topic. They find transitions difficult, particularly when taking them away from their interests. They can lack awareness of other's thoughts and feelings. This means that they can struggle to empathise or predict the needs of others.

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Sensory DIfferences

ASD children often have differences in their perception of sensory experience. This means that they can be more or less sensitive to everyday experiences. This can lead to difficulties with food, sleep, wearing clothes, being touched and tolerating noises.

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Why do children get ASD?

ASD can run in families and there is good evidence that genes are involved. However, environmental factors also play a substantial role in the risk of developing ASD.

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Is ASD increasing?

ASD is diagnosed more often than in the past. This may be due to greater awareness of ASD and better access to specialists who can make a diagnosis. There are also changes to society that may have increased the risk of having an ASD child. These include increases in maternal body weight and the later age at which adults become parents.

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Who can diagnose ASD?

Diagnosis in children can be only made by a medical professional qualified in paediatric development. This is usually a specialist consultant doctor.

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How does ASD get diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on observed behaviours. Questionnaires are often used to collate the observations of parents and any other professionals involved the child such as teachers at the school or nursery. There are internationally agreed criteria for diagnosing ASD and evidence from observations will be used to determine whether this is the correct diagnosis. Diagnosis can be made at any age.

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What are the benefits of diagnosis?

A diagnosis can be helpful in explaining why a child is developing differently. It can help professionals, who work with the child, adapt their practice to be better able to meet the child’s needs. Some specialist services are only available for children and their parents when there is a diagnosis.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Five Minute Guide to ASD

A handy printable version of this five minute guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

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Got more than five minutes?

You may be interested to read more:

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

ASD in girls

Sensory Needs

Back to the Five Minute Guides Index

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