What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological development disorder that impacts a person’s thinking, perception, attending, social skills and behavior. ASD has a wide variety of characteristics that are displayed in a person’s ability or inability to socially interact, communicate and display unusual behavior or interests in their daily lives. ASD can be diagnosed by these key characteristics:
- Challenges with social-emotional reciprocity including lack of knowledge on how to conduct social approach and normal back and forth conversation. Often leading to reduced sharing of interests, emotions or a displayed effect, and failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
- Challenges with non-verbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction including poor integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; Lack of eye contact and body language, or lack of knowledge of gestures or facial expression.
The severity of the disability is determined by an assessment of their daily interactions, social communication and repetitive patterns of behavior. The diagram below addresses a continuum where the severity of the symptoms increases at each level.
• Challenges in social communication that are noticeable
• Challenges with social interactions
• May appear to have a decreased interest in social interaction
• Difficulty switching between activities
• Challenges with organization and planning
• Enjoys independence with activities
Requires substantial support
• Marked challenges in verbal and non-verbal social communication
• Challenges with social interaction regardless of supports in place
• Limited initiation of social interaction
• Limited/reduced response to social overtures
• Difficulty coping with change
• Repetitive/restricted behavior are visible and often impact daily functioning in some contexts
• Distress and/or difficulty changing focus or attention
Requires very substantial support
• Severe challenges with verbal and nonverbal social communication
• Very limited initiation of social interaction
• Minimal response to social overtures
• Extremely difficult coping with change
• Repetitive/restricted behaviors are visible and often impact daily functioning in all contexts
• Great difficulty dealing with changing focus or attention
Common types of autism spectrum disorders with DSM-5 coding
Autism spectrum disorder – DSM-5 code: 299.00 (F84.0)
Centre for Accessibility support for autism may include
- Assistive technology
- Note-taking services
- Separate setting/distraction reduced exam setting
- Time accommodation for exams
- Preferential seating in the classroom
- Breaks from class as needed
- According to the National Epidemiological Database for the Study of Autism in Canada (NEDSAC), ASD is one of the most common developmental disabilities. In Canada, 1 in 94 children is diagnosed with ASD.
- Males were identified with ASD 4x more frequently than females. One in 42 males were diagnosed with ASD. One in 165 females were diagnosed with ASD.
- More than half (56%) of children and youth with ASD were diagnosed by age six, and more than 90% received a diagnosis by age 12.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.