Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

1 in 36 children in the US

are diagnosed with autism.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition arising from brain differences. Challenges in social communication, interaction, and engaging in repetitive behaviors or focused interests are common. Learning, movement, and attention patterns may also diverge. While some symptoms might be present in people without ASD, these traits can significantly complicate life for individuals with ASD.

 Read on to discover: 

  • What are autism spectrum disorders?
  • What is autism spectrum disorder in adults?
  • What are the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder?
  • Autism spectrum disorder DSM 5 vs autism spectrum disorder ICD 10: what’s the difference?
  • Is there an autism spectrum disorder test?
  • What is high-functioning autism spectrum disorder?
  • What is the most effective autism spectrum disorder treatment?
woman lying on couch representing adjustment disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder encompasses a range of conditions marked by challenges in social interaction and communication. Unusual activity patterns and behaviors, like sensitivity to transitions and heightened focus on details, are also common. The abilities and needs of individuals with autism vary, from independent living to requiring lifelong care. Education and employment opportunities can be affected, impacting families providing support. Timely diagnosis and societal attitudes, along with support from authorities, shape the quality of life for autistic individuals.

 While autism characteristics might emerge early, diagnosis often occurs later. Co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy, depression, anxiety, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), along with challenging behaviors like sleep issues and self-injury, are common. Intellectual functioning spans a wide spectrum, from profound impairment to exceptional ability.

 Although there is no test for autism spectrum disorder, DSM-5-TR outlines autism spectrum disorder criteria. DSM-5-TR is the fifth revised text of APA’s benchmark diagnostic tool, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. WHO (World Health Organization) publishes ICD (International Classification of Diseases). ICD-10 recognizes three subtypes of autism, while DSM-5-TR has a single diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder.

woman lying on couch representing adjustment disorder
person is therapy session representing adjustment disorder symptoms

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Early signs of autism spectrum disorder may emerge in infancy, like reduced eye contact, unresponsiveness to their name, or disinterest in caregivers. Some children initially develop typically but later exhibit sudden withdrawal, aggression, or loss of acquired language skills, often evident by age 2.

 Each child with autism spectrum disorder displays a distinct behavior pattern and severity level, ranging from low to high functioning.

 Certain children with autism spectrum disorder encounter learning challenges, some indicating lower intelligence. Conversely, others demonstrate normal to high intelligence, yet experience difficulties in communication, practical application of knowledge, and adapting to social contexts.

 Determining severity can be complex due to symptom variation. Typically, it’s assessed based on the impact of impairments on daily functioning.

As individuals with autism spectrum disorder mature, some become more socially engaged and display fewer behavioral disturbances. Those with milder challenges may eventually lead relatively normal lives. However, others may continue to face language and social difficulties, which can intensify during the teenage years, presenting behavioral and emotional struggles.

Common autism spectrum disorder symptoms include:

Social communication and interaction
  • Fails to respond to their name or intermittently seems unresponsive.
  • Prefers solitary play, resisting cuddling, and exhibiting limited eye contact.
  • Displays poor facial expressions and speech delays or regression.
  • Struggles to initiate or sustain conversations, sometimes using unconventional speech patterns.
  • May repeat words without comprehension or have difficulty understanding questions.
  • Demonstrates challenges in expressing emotions and recognizing others’ feelings.
  • Lacks pointing or sharing interests, possibly displaying passive, aggressive, or disruptive social behavior.
  • Has difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language.


Behavioral patterns
  • Engages in repetitive movements (rocking, hand-flapping) or self-harm activities.
  • Develops rigid routines, becoming distressed by minor changes.
  • Exhibits coordination issues and unusual movements, like walking on toes.
  • Focuses intensely on specific details of objects without grasping their purpose.
  • Displays sensory sensitivities (light, sound, touch), alongside potential indifference to pain or temperature.
  • Struggles with imaginative or pretend play.
  • Becomes fixated on objects or activities with intense focus.
  • Shows preferences or aversions to certain foods based on texture.


Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder

DSM-5-TR has a single diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder. ICD-10 and ICD-11, by contrast, recognize three different subtypes of autism – childhood autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder. 

Broadly, there are five types of autism spectrum disorders: Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, CDD (childhood disintegrative disorder), Kanner’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder.

Asperger's syndrome

Asperger’s is longer a medical term, and this type of autism was reclassified as level 1 autism spectrum disorder in DSM-5-TR. The term is often informally used to describe individuals with strong verbal skills but social communication challenges, inflexibility in thought and behavior, and difficulties in peer interactions.

Rett syndrome

A rare neurodevelopmental disorder primarily affecting girls. Symptoms include loss of coordination, communication challenges, and potential breathing difficulties. With proper care, those with Rett syndrome can lead fulfilling lives.

CDD (childhood disintegrative disorder)

Appears after age three to ten with regression in language, motor skills, and social function. More common in boys, it involves sudden losses in toileting skills, language, social abilities, and some motor skills.

Kanner's syndrome

Also known as infantile autism, characterized by lack of emotional attachment, communication difficulties, speech challenges, obsessions, and rote memory skills. Intelligence might be high in certain areas, but overall learning can be challenging.

Pervasive developmental disorder

A mild form of autism presenting a range of symptoms, primarily impacting social and language development. It’s sometimes referred to as subthreshold autism as it describes individuals with some but not all autism symptoms.

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If you have been feeling any of these symptoms, and you are in need of help, please give our friendly team a call.

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Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Increased access to healthcare through legislative efforts has expanded treatment options for autism. The ACA (Affordable Care Act) of 2010 prevents insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage based on pre-existing conditions, including autism and related disorders.

While there is no cure for ASD, treatment for autism spectrum disorder can help individuals manage symptoms, enhance cognitive abilities and daily skills, and improve community engagement. Early evaluation and autism spectrum disorder diagnosis are universally recognized as crucial in addressing ASD effectively.

 Behavioral interventions focus on social communication skills, encompassing social skills therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy as needed. Certain medications can assist in managing restrictive and RRBs (repetitive behaviors) like “stimming.” Tailoring therapy to age, strengths, challenges, and individual differences is key.

 Available therapies include applied behavior analysis, social skills training, occupational and physical therapy, sensory integration therapy, and assistive technology.

 ASD therapies fall into these categories:

  • Behavior and communication approaches
  • Dietary methods
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Medication
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 Given the complexity of ASD, finding effective therapies may take time.


What are the 5 disorders on the autism spectrum?

The five disorders on the autism spectrum are ASD (autism spectrum disorder), Asperger’s Syndrome, CDD (childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett Syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder).

What is life like for someone with autism?

Life for someone with autism can vary widely, but it often involves unique communication and social challenges, sensory sensitivities, and a preference for routines. Support and understanding play a crucial role in their well-being.

Is autism genetic?

Yes, autism has a genetic component. Research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to its development.

What can cause autism?

The causes of autism spectrum disorder are not fully understood, but a combination of genetic and environmental influences is believed to contribute. Factors like prenatal conditions, advanced parental age, and certain genetic mutations might play a role.

Can autism be misdiagnosed?

Yes, autism can sometimes be misdiagnosed due to overlapping symptoms with other conditions. It is advisable to have a comprehensive assessment by experienced professionals to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention.

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Get Compassionate Treatment for ASD at Connections Mental Health

At Connections Mental Health in Southern California, we are dedicated to offering specialized and individualized care to individuals dealing with autism.

 Nestled by the beach, our facility creates a warm and supportive setting for those seeking stability, tranquility, and growth. Our devoted team of experts integrates holistic approaches with evidence-based therapies, all within an environment thoughtfully crafted to resemble a home rather than a clinical institution.

 Whether you’re personally navigating through episodes of autism-related challenges or you’re supporting someone who is, our team is here to provide guidance and assistance, facilitating functional improvement and enhanced well-being at Connections Mental Health.

Reach out to our admissions today to explore how you can initiate the journey towards recovery in the serene surroundings of Southern California.

At Connections Mental Health, engage with cutting-edge treatments that are evidence-based and grounded in the most current psychiatric science. Benefit from 24/7 supervision with at least two staff members present at all times to prioritize your safety and well-being. 

Whether you or a loved one is experiencing episodes of major depressive disorder, we’re here to support you and help you restore daily functioning and sound mental health. Engage with compassionate treatment that blends science-backed interventions and holistic therapies, and take the first step towards a brighter future at Connections Mental Health. 

Call us today at  (844) 413-0009 to learn more about our personalized treatment plans and begin your journey to healing at Connections.

a person in a therapy appointment representing Schizoaffective Disorder symptoms

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