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Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses

Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Sep 25th 2018

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder (a "brain" disease) characterized by the presence of persistent (ongoing) communication and social issues. It is a developmental disorder, which begins in early childhood and continues throughout life. Autism spectrum disorder affects most every aspect of life along the way. Cognitive (thinking and language) and social skills are typically developmentally delayed compared to their peers without the disorder. However, their motor (movement) skills develop in a more typical way.

little boy Specific social interaction, communication and behavioral problems must be present before the diagnosis can be made. Though all people with autism show the same overall pattern of impairments, the severity of these issues will vary from case to case. Some people show mild impairments and others have more severe issues.

From a very early age, children with autism spectrum disorder demonstrate difficulties in interacting with other people. They also have trouble with processing social and non-verbal forms of communication, such as eye contact and facial expression. For instance, a typical infant is generally responsive to adult caregiver facial expressions and will imitate those expressions. If a parent smiles at the infant, that infant is likely to smile back. This is not the case with infants on the autism spectrum as they often lack the ability to recognize facial expressions or socially expressed feelings. Children with autism spectrum disorder are also often delayed (sometimes severely so) in their development of spoken language and conversational skills.

People on the autism spectrum also tend to demonstrate odd or socially inappropriate behaviors. They frequently show little interest in others and remain isolated from their surroundings. Many obsess or fixate on certain objects or on specific topics that they find personally interesting. They may insist on talking about a topic they find fascinating even when others around them are not interested. They may act out odd stereotyped movements and gestures. They may have an intense need for order and sameness in their environment and react with temper tantrums when their preferred order is changed. In general, they lack social awareness, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to successfully deal with everyday situations.

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are not present from birth. Most children with autism spectrum disorder appear to develop normally during the first year of life. The communication symptoms of autism spectrum disorder usually become apparent between eighteen and twenty-four months of age. They can become noticeable during the first twelve months if developmental symptoms are severe. The behavioral symptoms usually first appear in early childhood. No race or social class tends to be on the spectrum more frequently than another. However, it is far more likely (as much as four to five times more likely) to be diagnosed in males than it is in females.

Once established, autism spectrum disorder symptoms continue into adulthood. The symptoms range in severity (across people) from relatively mild to severe and crippling. In all but mild cases, autism interferes with normal development and makes it difficult or impossible for affected adults to live and work independently. Though intervention cannot reverse the course of autism, it can result in symptom improvement and a greater ability for independence.


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I need serious help - EmOboy - Apr 1st 2011

after reading this i come 2 knw tht i have been suffering this problems

1.I am shy to eye contact

2.I was and still kinda isolated from outside world

3.I have No close friends

4.I talk too Much

5.I am shy amongst girls

6.I hate to Be between a croud

7.I am shy of other people


I`m 19 yrs old male and i`m suffering from these problems i talk too much and my family is tooprotective of me my mom treat me like a three year old and i have this feeling everybody hates me i am some times too interested in something even i disturb peoples personal business i live in a third world country we dont hav any mental council facilities please some one expert give me solution and how to improve i`m a student  and seriously need of help

Outsider looking in! - Jade - Nov 4th 2009

Hi. I think i may be autistic, or on the autistic spectrum. I have not yet been diagnosed and am feeling the fustration burning up inside me of not been able to tell people how they can help me. I feel completely misunderstood, and so callled "normal people" do not seem to have any empathy or understanding towards this condition.  Isolation follows me around like a dark shadow and i do not ask for solitude but i have learnt to accept it. I know i am very curious and have a colourful imagination which sometimes helps me through the bad aspects of Autism. The negative aspets, though can be a living nightmare. It is like crying out in he dark! Just remember when anyone judges your autism they could be judging the next Einstein! 

Don't Give Up - Theodore - Oct 8th 2009

In regards to the last post, what you need to do is immediately seek professional help.  There are so many people who try to bear the burden of depression or whatever it may be on their own but there are people who can help.  You are very brave for caring so much for the people who love you and for enduring but if you find the right psychiatrist or whatever it may be they can help you, don't give up.  Also if you feel motherhood in every form is an impossibility perhaps a pet could fill that place in your life.

my life spreads before me, empty and lonely - Nell - Sep 26th 2009

I've never been diagnosed officially , but I've known my whole life that I'm different, and online tests have told me that I'm autistic and that I likely have aspergers, which only gives a name to it, nothing more.  My life is hell, and if it wasn't for the pain and embarassment it would cause my family I would have ended my life years ago. I  was given to self-harm in my teens, but decided, at about 15, that if I made such an attempt again, it should be all or nothing.  I have a job, which I imagine is due to a clerical error or some other mistake, but no prospects of advancement, and I am aware that the people  I work with would rather I wasn't there.  I dread  to think of my future, again not for my own sake, but for the sake of the few people who care for me.  I yearn for nothing more than to be a mother, but fear that I would be no good for a child, even if anyone could tolerate me long enough to get me pregnant.  I am desperate and alone, and find cold comfort in fiction and imagination, which must, I know, replace real life for me.  I don't know how I can go on, except that there are people more deserving than me, who don't deserve the pain that my suicide would cause, and I consider their pain more than my own. I know I'm self destructive, and I can't seem to help it. I know I am my own worst enemy, but what can I do?  I am 27, and my life spreads before me , empty and lonely.  How can I bear it, and what can I do?

Undiagnosed Autistic Boyfriend - Yessi - Jun 21st 2009

I have been with my boyfriend for a year and a half...and I think he has a mild form of autism.

He's very into himself and is really akward in social environments. I also feel he can't connect emotionally with me. He's very indifferent and only pays attention when I mention him or talk about him.

He also has really bad temper tantrums that are affecting the relationship. He gets upset at me if I get sad or emotional but I can't help but feel alone in the relationship.

I love him so much because  know he's got a lot to offer, he can be really sweet, hard working and loyal, but lately I feel like I can't deal with it...especially because I think I depend on him too much

He hasnt been diagnosed but he's got all the signs- only talks about things that interest him (soccer), akward in social settings and comes off as rude when responding to people, often uses phrases as seen on TV (ie the simpsons phrases), can't connect emotionally somtimes, temper tantrums-- exagerates his anger, big imagination, realy good with numbers...sometimes counts for nothing...and more i just cant think of any thing else.

He must be highfuntioning because he's worked since he was 16. But he's always had jobs that don't involve him talking to people (janitor jobs).

I want this relationship to work but I'm scared that I'm giving him excuses for being the way he is...

What do I do??



I just wish to comment... - - May 2nd 2009

I have a IQ of exactly 130, and I do have asperger's. Being a teen with this 'illness' is quite frustrating, as you know damnant quod no intelligunt is the best latin phrase to describe them. I do feel like I am stuck on a planet i don't belong. Anyway have a nicce day!


wow! - - Apr 25th 2009

 i've been wondering if this could be my problem if there is any way to solve it. although i have a 133 iq., i keep making termiinal decisions. i want a normal life, i'm in a great realationship, but something very similar has always circumvented critical decision making skills. when i was in school i couldn't concentrate because of seemingly meaningless obsessions so i was phychologically abused and humiliated by teachers and students. so i dropped out in grammar school. i got a g.e.d. then i couldn't complete a semester of community college. also i can't be in an ever changing environment so i won't go out anymore. i cover up my social awkwardness by being an overt smart- ass. because i'm unteachable i'm also underqualified for anything but an entry level job and i'm 34 although i couldn't deal w/ the demands of an entry level job if i had one. i too would like access to all the things the normal people have, but i'm percieved as either not confident enough to take the initiative or i'm lazy. (as if i had a choice i would choose this). i know my limitations but i want to a comfortable life and be left alone i can't live off a disability check anymore. they think i'm bipolar and i'm afraid to tell them that i'm just frustrated because i'll lose my income.i think i obtained this condition from thalidamide in utero. what can i do to push ahead? it feels like i'm being buried alive. i'm very lucky to have a great person to love that really loves and respects me, but i'm in the closet about this potential issue and don't wan't to be percieved asterminal dead wieght. advice?

sudden realisation - - Apr 13th 2009

think i might have aspergers?? 

a living hell - Zach - Apr 5th 2009

As someone with Asperger's Syndrome I'd like to explain just a little bit of what I'm dealing with.  I'm twenty-two and have an IQ of around 140.  I was never diagnosed.  Even now I'm too ashamed to tell my parents that I have a "mental problem" in the fear that it would just sound like an excuse.  I've been considering suicide again because I can't force myself to get a job and can't pay my student loans.  The worst is that my parents have cosigned on some of them and we're a poor family anyway.  I've had jobs in the past, but I've done my best to keep my work history questionable.  My father and one of my sisters also have obvious symptoms of Asperger's though I haven't talked to them about it.  I'm so ridiculously tired of being a burden to my family.  My life so far is a story of thick self-sabotage and I don't know why I do it.  It's a miserable existence and it says something for my improvement that I can even write this to "strangers" and not stop myself from submitting it.  I'm sure everyone reading this will silently curse me for trying to arouse sympathy for myself.  Right? :/ The only thing that's kept me from ending my life is the torturous guilt that I'd hurt my family and friends even more.  It seems like my entire life I've just been hoping for everyone to not care if I die, so that I can die in peace.  Though it sounds dark, I hope this shines a little light on where I'm coming from.  God bless you. -Zach

Undiagnosed? - AB - Feb 26th 2009

What do you do when you believe that you may have mild autism or Asperger's syndrome, but it has gone undiagnosed? I am at a loss at trying to figure out how to explain to others that I am not a cruel or indifferent person. I am just unable to pick up on social cues well or interect with others on a normal social level.  I also find odd objects interesting, so I stare off a lot.  I notice students staring at and talking about me when this happens. On the other end, I can also be extremely focused. Also, class participation is a problem, and I find that I just cannot speak, but in some settings I am able to communicate pretty well. I feel like an outsider and an ambiguous mess. Does anyone have any suggestions? How do you cope?

Autism But what about Substance abuse - Harry - Oct 5th 2008

These are really intresting comments i've been struggling with autism i've had a few breakthroughs but still suffer from it in some form and depression what i'm wondering about is i've looked through it must now by 100s of websites and i can't find much about drug/alcohol abuse for a child/teen with autisim.

There were alot of feelings of hopelessness with me and some parents reading all the comments yeah i sure can agree with it all.

Autism - katy - Mar 4th 2008

Autism is not a brain disease, that term is offensive. It implies its an illness which can be caught when it is not, it is a condition ( condition=group of symptoms), although Autism does have bad factors to it, it also has many positives which have been failed to mention here such as high ability to concentrate and persue special intrest, and a logical way of thinking. I am Autistic and i am glad i am, if i wasn't i would not be myself. No one is perfect, we all have difficulties. Autism is a very wide spectrum and you can't genralise one thing for all of us because we're all different and unique.

Also Autism is highly genetic. Contact me if you want to learn more about Autism.

undiagnosed mild autism? - - Oct 25th 2007

is it possible to have a mild case of Autism that has gone undiagnosed

Editor's Note:  Yes

A little about Autism - Devan Recalde - Sep 27th 2007

This is a partial response to "my cousin daughter - - Aug 16th 2007"

You really need to convince your friend to take their child to the doctor. It is important that a doctor properly diagnose the child as austic. The sooner a child is diagnosed, the sooner they can get help. The mom doesn't have to be completely worried. As is talked about in this section, autism can have different degrees in intensity. People who are severly affected by autism can harm others around them if they don't get help. At my high school, there was a boy named Camiar. He was one of those extreme cases. He would frequently get really upset and hysterical, threatening to kill everyone with his nukes and laser and how aliens were trying to get him, and other similar things. Once, it took about 3 people to calm him down, but in the process, he bit an administrator. The sooner someone autistic gets help, the easier things can be for them.

I myself am autistic. I have Asperger Syndrome. For me though, I wouldn't call the form I have a disorder. As was said, autistic people can focus intensly on things that they like. For me, this has been math in school. The results have been that I started taken Algebra in 6th grade, and eventually went to AP Calculus AB last year (on the AP exam, I got a 5, the highest score you can get). In social situations, I can be a little hyper sometimes, but other than that, it doesn't really inhibit me.

 Autism can be good or bad, it depends on many factors. If someone who is a severe case gets helped along, they can end up being the best of people. They tend to be the friendliest and kindest people you have ever met.

my cousin daughter - - Aug 16th 2007

I notice that my cousin's baby has all or pretty much the above symtoms, but my cousin refuses to take her to the Dr. she says that she is just lazy and I think it is more than that.... I have been close to a lot of my friends that have kids with autisim and I pretty much know how to recognize them from others.  It is very sad and no parent wants to hear that from their child.... I support those families that from one way or another have a relative or a close friend with autisim syndrome.  I hope my cousin realize and take in consideration our concern for the best of the child.  GOD BLESS ALL.

To Anne Marie - LadyKimp - Jul 1st 2007
We know we are all the things you mentioned...We are not un-self aware..On the contrary...We know all of the negative character faults that comes with our brain damage...We see them and also mourn our inability to be able to change ourselves..It is a grotesque, unfair life to realise how unsocial we are in a world of socialness and not have any way to change our behavior...We are trapped in a defective brain/ body...Fully aware of our limitations....What torture...We would thank god if we could change...People don't realize we have self-awareness...It just is a huge part of our disability that we can't express to others ...That we still feel on the inside but can't express it on the outside..This is the ultimate disability...It is like living life in a fully aware state of coma...And no one can touch us on the inner level...But we are still relating to you on the outer level....I have a very, very high iq compared to most autistic/asperger/develpmentally disabled folk...So my self-awareness is more developed...So is my pain and grief of my dilemma...But I know that others with less iq still have the sel-awareness of the limitations of their disability ...But can't express yheir grief outwardly to others like I can....They know that they are a pain in the butt to society, family, and friends, they want to be able to relate to others in a normal fashion and they also grieve inwardly for the loss of the person they could have been if they had not been born/developed this horrifying disease....Much in the same way a parilysed person(by no fault of their own ) grieves for their past life...The only difference is the autistic also has to grieve for the minute to minute loss of the ability to keep themselves safe and surviving thru their severely devistated decision making process....A mental process others take for granted ...So add to the everyday feelings of grief the minute by minute feeling of terror for their self survival....And also add the over whelming feeling of being 100% dependent on others for your survival...In a world where independance is so valued....Oh yes that brings me to the social stigma problem....Add all of the previously mentioned emotions to the feelings of discust other people around us send our way.....If we didnt have such severe brain damage that short ciruits our decisions ...We would be commiting suicide in vast numbers like lemmings.....So please shut-up and put-up wiyh us while we are here on earth....Comared to the usually over whelming un-expressed agony we go thru everyday...Normals should stop being so selfish and count their blessings and try to develope a working compassionate support system for adults with autism that have outlived their parents and been rejected by siblings and society! And this again adds a new pain to my life...Knowing that if I were normal...I coud develop a program or someting like that for helping others...But I can only feel the loss inside me of knowing I can barely keep myself alive with the limited mental resources I have. I grieve the ability of being able to help others....Ironic isn't it!

getting through - DAD - May 7th 2007

I have a Teen who has been diagnosed with Bi-Polar, ADD, and Asbergers.

It has been difficutl to speak and understand his ways. I have tried being patience and understanding of his emotions and frustrations. I need some insight and CBT cognitive behavior therapy to communicate with him. Any topics or ideas?



my brother has aspergers...a type of autism - - Mar 2nd 2007
My brother has aspergers syndrome (a type of autism)...every symptom here in this article I noticed in him. I've heard some doctors say that it can't be genetic...But I think it could be. My father shows most of those same symptoms as well as my fathers mother. All very similar symptoms between the three. But I still love them all for who they are.

A spectrum, re: above comment - Anne-Marie - Feb 4th 2007

The autism spectrum disorder affects people differently, if a line is drawn, you have on the left the low functioning autistic, they can't speak and severely affected, withdrawn, (low IQ I think). As you more to the right at the end you find the Asperger syndrome, they perform better as they  VERBALLY communicate/express the acquired vocabulary, appear normal to the public at large. I'll say as contact with them is getting closer or familiarity with them is getting wider, the the symptoms appear from, more or less in order: shyness, withdrawn, weird, clothes style, lack of normal/everyday communication skills, lack of social skills and contact, lots of reading but not sharing, not initiating contact, can be extremely competent when work in isolation and/or in field or expertise,  extremely incompetent  in  anything else,  can be very blunt and defiant, stubborn, unflexible, lack of empathy described as lack of Theory of mind (can put oneself in other people shoes -mirror neurons, as things are root memorised then little skills to form marital relationship, which is an emotional one, think in right or wrong with no compromise, like need to win at all time, think with unflexible logic which is particular to the disorder but makes no-sense to the neurotypical saying they like common sense. Well it is not their fault and their lack of insight stops them to realise the above, they always have an argument for it, very singular however. Tendance to always blame others for their mistakes and behaviours. No sense of responsibility.

Once again, it is not their fault to be born as such, and they are happy the way they are, for fault to know otherwise and fear of change (like sameness and rigidity, unflexibility...). The problem is that the relative living with them are not that happy, they are on daily basis very challenging. View on the other side, we are also very challenging and idiot to them. 

a friend with autism - - Dec 7th 2006
I have a friend who is autistic, his name i wont mention. after reding this artical and realizing the symptoms of being autistic, I didnt Know autism was this serious. I think my friend is not 100% autistic cause he only has a few of them symptoms.

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