Updated: Oct 2, 2017
The definition of Autism and related disorders has undergone a variety of changes over time. These changes have made it difficult for parents and professionals alike to get a straight answer to the question "what is Autism?" At its core, Autism remains a neuro-developmental disorder that impacts an individual's verbal and non-verbal communication, in addition to restrictive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. Delays in verbal and non-verbal communication negatively impact social interactions, making it difficult for individuals with Autism to make friends, navigate daily routines, participate in school, and even find employment. Similarly, restrictive patterns of behavior can result in issues with transitions between activities, aggression, self-injury, and a variety of other challenges in daily life.
Autism is a Spectrum Disorder
There is a common saying in the world of Autism that goes "if you've met one person with Autism, then you've met one person with Autism". This saying rings true as individuals diagnosed with Autism often display a wide range skills and deficits. This "spectrum" of skills can sometimes cause confusion to parents and professionals. It often raises questions like "how can my child have Autism? He's so different from Johnny down the street who is also diagnosed!" The reality is that if an individual meets the minimum criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they will be diagnosed regardless of severity. That means a child that presents with moderate delays in social communication and restrictive behaviors will receive the same diagnosis as an individual with several delays.