People of all ages live with autism. Since autism is a somewhat broad term that can describe a number of symptoms and conditions, many people go undiagnosed late into life. Learning about what autism is can help people know how to identify symptoms and when to visit a doctor for a screening. Here’s some more information about autism, its common signs, and ages during which people most often get diagnosed.
What is autism?
Autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a medical condition that affects people’s neurodevelopment. This is a natural occurrence that children can begin to show signs of in their first year of life. Most people living with autism experience differences in the way they communicate and interact with society, though the exact manifestations of this can vary greatly. For example, one person with autism may consistently speak too loudly without realizing, and another person with autism may be completely nonverbal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s expected that around 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism. This includes people in all kinds of socioeconomic, cultural, and racial groups in society. Aside from these patients, there are also many adults who receive autism diagnoses later in life, often resulting from the late identification of autistic traits that they can trace back to early childhood.
What is the autism spectrum?
The autism spectrum refers to the complete range of different ways this condition can manifest in people. Since autism can develop in varying levels of intensity and result in extremely different symptoms from person to person, viewing the condition as a spectrum helps to include everyone who exhibits the applicable signs. For example, some people with autism may have lower levels of support needs and remain capable of living on their own, while others may require around-the-clock care into adulthood. Both of these types of people still have autism; they simply fall on different parts of the full spectrum.
Signs and symptoms of autism
People with autism can show a variety of signs and symptoms that may indicate they have the condition. The most common of these is likely abnormal skills in social interaction and communication. This can include signs like avoidance of eye contact, lack of interest in games that involve interaction, and a disinterest in playing or speaking with other children or adults.
Some people with autism also exhibit behavior that’s either severely restricted or intensely repetitive. For example, many people with ASD develop specialized interests that they obsessively discuss or consume information about at a rate that’s much higher than neurotypical people. Another common sign of this trait is echolalia, which involves repeating sounds, phrases, and words for a prolonged period of time.
There are also many characteristics that can be signs of autism when they occur for an extended time throughout a child’s development. For example, many children with autism experience delayed motor and language skills, as well as difficulty learning in formal environments. Some symptoms of autism can also manifest in physical ways, such as gastrointestinal conditions, epilepsy, or hyperactivity. Mood is another common sign of autism, as people with the condition can have intense anxiety and mood swings, depending on where they fall on the spectrum.
Most common ages for autism diagnosis
While people can be diagnosed with autism at essentially any age, there are a few age groups in which it’s most common to see these diagnoses. While ASD can begin presenting as early as 12 months, parents usually wait until ages two or three to get a screening. This is because some children show signs of autism early in life and then resume gaining new skills after some time. For children who stop developing new skills when they’re around two years old, it’s common to seek a screening for an autism diagnosis.
In recent years, it’s also become more common for people to receive autism diagnoses when they’re older. This means that if someone identifies signs of autism within themselves once they’re an adult, they can still visit a specialist to get screened for the condition and diagnosed at that time.
This has been a comprehensive overview of what autism is and how to recognize it. Parents and young readers alike can benefit from learning about autism, as it may help you to identify traits in yourself or in people close to you. This can give you the chance to help people get the diagnosis they need to receive the support that allows them to develop and thrive.