According to Autism Canada,[1] Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “impacts brain development causing most individuals to experience communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour.” Canadian data from 2015 estimates that 1 in 66 Canadian children are diagnosed with ASD.

ASD is said to be a neurodevelopmental disorder since it affects brain development of an individual with symptoms typically appearing during the early years of life. ASD can, however, be diagnosed at any age.[2] Autism is a spectrum disorder because symptoms can vary significantly both in their type and intensity.

Individuals with ASD will typically show:

  • Difficulty with communication in social situations
    • Poor eye contact and facial expression
    • Delayed speech or regression in ability to speak
    • Preference for being alone
    • Difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues
  • Repetitive behaviour and a restriction in interests
    • Rocking
    • Arm flapping
    • Repeating words or phrases
  • Symptoms that impair the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, etc.

Currently, there is no definitive cause of ASD, but research does suggest that our genes and our environment both play a role. Some established risk factors for ASD include:

  • Child’s sex – males are more likely to develop ASD than females
  • Family history
  • Other disorders – individuals with Fragile X syndrome and Rett syndrome have a higher risk for developing ASD
  • Preterm babies
  • Increased parental age

ASD Assessments

  • You should have an assessment done for your child if you are concerned with their development, notice signs or symptoms characteristic of ASD, and/or if a close family member has been diagnosed with ASD.[3]
  • While assessing your child, the healthcare professional will observe your child’s communication, behaviours and development.
  • Evaluations are done using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and evidence-based psychometrically validated measures (i.e., cognitive measures, adaptive functioning, interviews). Testing for ASD can also help to rule out other conditions that may be affecting your child’s development.

Therapies & Interventions

  • Early diagnosis and early interventions can help improve outcomes for individuals with ASD. Therapies and interventions can help individuals learn skills and adjust behaviour that might be interfering with daily functioning.
  • Some examples of interventions that might be helpful include occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, behavioural therapy, training for families, medication interventions, and alternative therapies.

For more information, we recommend:

We are pleased to highlight that there is a psychologist at Saterra Psychological & Counselling Services who is completely devoted to conducting psychological assessments. At Saterra we use the industry “gold standard” evidence-based measure and approach to testing that demonstrates highest sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing Autism (i.e., Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2, cognitive testing, adaptive functioning, and semi-structured interviews) [4].

 

For more information, please contact Saterra Psychological & Counselling Services at (613) 831-8181 or at info@saterra.ca. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

[1] Autism Canada. What is Autism? https://autismcanada.org/about-autism/

[2] National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml

[3] Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd/signs-symptoms-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd.html

4 Falkmer, T. Anderson, K. Falkmer, M., & Horlin, C. (2013). Diagnostic procedures in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic literature review. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22(6), pp 329-340.

 

[4] Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd/signs-symptoms-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd.html