A well known saying about meeting someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is that if you've met one person with ASD, then you've met one person with ASD. All thought this saying may seem very simple, it highlights just how broad and varied an ASD diagnosis can be. The reason for this is that ASD is not one single disorder, it is actually a grouping of developmental brain disorders, hence the word "spectrum", that range in symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment that individuals with ASD can have (National Institute of Mental Health). The DSM IV currently defines five disorders that fall under the diagnosis of ASD; those are Autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, Pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified, Rett's disorder, and Childhood disintegrative disorder (DSM-IV-TR). This paper will not focus on any single one of these disorders, but rather will be more of a broad analysis of ASD in general.
The symptoms of ASD can be very different from one individual to the next, but for the most part symptoms will fall into three categories; Social impairment, Communication difficulties, and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors. Most Diagnoses' are made before the age of three; the onset of the disorder can be congenital, and in some cases regressive. Examples of social impairment could be as simple as not liking to make eye contact, not pointing at or interacting with things in their environment including other people, and responding unusually to when others show extreme emotions such as anger, distress or affection (NIMH). Communication issues could include failing to respond to their name or other attempts to gain their attention, begin babbling in the first year of life but then stop doing so, repeating words or phrases that they hear, and in some cases learning to communicate using pictures or their own sign language can be a sign of ASD. Repetitive and stereotyped behaviors could be a broad range of things.