Autism Diagnosis Remains an Inexact Science

By Kristine Hartvigsen on April 11th, 2017

April is Autism Awareness Month. In the past, there were many definitions and diagnoses for autism. Now all forms of autism are collectively diagnosed under Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability that impedes a person’s ability to communicate and interact with the world. As suggested by the word spectrum, symptoms can vary widely among those diagnosed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 68 U.S. children have ASD. The exact causes of autism are not clear, but it occurs more often in boys than in girls. The CDC estimates that most children with autism have at least average intelligence; in fact, 46% have above-average intelligence.

While there is no cure for autism, it is treatable with therapy and, sometimes, medication.

Symptoms include difficulty communicating with others, inconsistent eye contact, isolation, repetitive behaviors (also known as “stimming”), the inability to be spontaneous or stray from routine without becoming upset, failure to respond when being summoned by name or gesture, repeating words and phrases heard without context, unusual or flat tone of voice, and difficulty understanding other people’s point of view or a seeming lack of empathy. Many with ASD also have hypersensitivity to light, color, and external stimuli.

Diagnosing ASD is an inexact science. So far, there is no medical or blood test for it. However researchers working to develop one. For now, healthcare providers generally observe a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. Most children are diagnosed by age 4, and many show symptoms by age 2.

This month, as we raise autism awareness, it’s a good time to reach out to families coping with autism and offer your love and support.

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