Definitions, Terms and Facts about Autism and ADHD
What is Autism?
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. The “autism spectrum” describes a set of developmental delays and disorders that affect social and communication skills and motor and language skills. Until May 2013, official diagnoses within the autism spectrum included autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Rett Syndrome. Today, there is just one Autism Spectrum Disorder, with three levels of severity. Early signs of Autism in children and toddlers usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children. Children with ADHD may be hyperactive and unable control their impulses, or they may have trouble paying attention. These behaviors interfere with school and home life. ADHD is more common in boys than in girls and is typically discovered during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention.
What is Aspberger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. It is characterized by higher than average intellectual ability coupled with impaired social skills and restrictive, repetitive patterns of interest and activities. The term and the diagnosis was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) manual in 2013, however many in the Autism community continue to use it because it helps describe a very specific group of people.
Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
Up until 2013, this diagnosis was used to describe individuals who didn’t fully fit the criteria for other specific diagnoses but are nevertheless Autistic. Because there is no easy way to define the symptoms of PDD-NOS, which may range from very mild to very severe, the diagnostic category no longer exists.
What is mild Autism?
The term “mild Autism” is not an official diagnosis. When people use the term “mild autism” they are referring to individuals whose symptoms fit an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, but who have strong verbal skills and few behavioral issues.
What is high functioning Autism?
Like “mild Autism”, ”high functioning autism” (sometimes shortened to HFA) is a made-up term that’s become more and more commonly used. Before 2013, the term was used to distinguish “Autism” from “Asperger syndrome.“ The official distinction made by practitioners before 2013 was that people with HFA had speech delays while people with Asperger Syndrome have normal speech development.
What is severe autism?
Severe autism is not an official diagnosis, it is a descriptive term along with profound autism, low functioning autism, and classic autism. People with “severe autism” are often non-verbal and intellectually disabled, and may have very challenging behaviors.
Why Autism Terms Aren’t Always Helpful
While some autism-related terms are descriptive, they’re not always helpful. Every individual on the Autism Spectrum is unique. Hence, as the old adage goes, if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism!
Some facts about autism
- The 2018 National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS) Report estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 66 children in Canada. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
- Around one third of people with Autism remain nonverbal.
- Around one third of people with Autism have an intellectual disability.
- Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.
- Autism is treatable, not a hopeless condition!
Some facts about ADHD
- Males are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.
- During their lifetimes, 13 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD.
- The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old.
- Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 6.
- ADHD isn’t just a childhood disorder.