Autism spectrum disorder (AUD) is characterized by a wide range of impairments regarding social communication as well as repeated and repetitive behaviors. Symptoms of AUD are usually recognized between the ages of 12-24 months, but it is possible to see symptoms prior to 12 months of age. These symptoms include:
- Deficits in social and emotional exchanges (ex: failure to initiate or respond to social interactions)
- Deficits in nonverbal communication (ex: poor eye contact, deficits in the use of gestures, lack of facial expressions)
- Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships
- Difficulty in making friends
- Difficulty with imaginary play
- Insistence on sameness
- Highly fixed interest
- Lining up toys
- Repetitive motor movements
In early stages of development, it may be noted that the child has patterns of gradual or even rapid deterioration in social skills or language skills. Some children experience developmental regression along with deterioration of social behaviors and use of language during the 12–24-age period. Risk factors for development of AUD include advanced maternal age, low birth weight, or fatal exposure to a medication known as Valproate.
The goal of treatment for AUD is to be able to improve social interactions, communication strategies, the ability to develop meaningful relationships, and increase long term independent living.