There are several classifications of autism currently recognised:
In America, recent debate surrounding these classifications has resulted in the term ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ being removed from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used across the USA and a key text for many health professionals across the world) because it is deemed to be so closely linked to High Functioning Autism.
Although the implications for this in the UK are small, we use a different diagnostic manual, what it does show is that there is active debate surrounding how developmental disorders are considered.
Autistic spectrum disorders can vary a great deal between individuals, but they share three common traits to a lesser or greater degree.
Social Interaction – one trait of the autistic spectrum is finding it difficult to build and maintain friendships, work in teams and know how to manage social situations. You may have noticed your child has not formed the same relationships as their peers and chooses not to fit in within a social group, this is not unusual for a child with autism, and there is always something you can do to help. Every child is unique, and some may prefer to be solitary; this does not mean that your child’s development will be compromised as a consequence of their independence as they may thrive in other areas.
Social Interaction is perhaps the most important of the triad, particularly for those who are receiving a diagnosis later on in childhood or as an adult. This element tends to be pervasive and can have a heavy impact on day-to-day life for everyone involved. For those diagnosed later in life it is much easier for people to learn compensatory mechanisms in terms of social interaction, than it can be for social communication or imagination.
Social Communication – difficulty understanding and translating body language, metaphors, sarcasm and social interactions are all signs of autism. Your child may also have difficulty maintaining eye contact and may also find it hard to retain and process verbal communication.
Social Imagination – finding change difficult to manage and preferring to stick to a strict routine to carryout daily tasks are traits of the autistic spectrum.
‘Autism’ and ‘Asperger’s’ are common classifications of autistic spectrum disorders in the UK.
There is much debate as to what the difference is between the two and the answer is there is no clear cut definition.
Generally, children with Asperger’s do not have intellectual impairment and often do not struggle as much with language as children with classic autism. Children with Asperger’s often show more interest in their environment and with social interactions, even if they can find them really difficult.
Asperger’s is considered to be a ‘High Functioning Autistic Disorder’ in the USA, but does not mean that a child with Asperger’s finds life any easier than a child diagnosed with classic autism. Both Asperger’s and Autism present behavioural, emotional and social difficulties for the child, a challenging prospect for all those involved. It can be frustrating as a parent as you want the best for your child, however it is hard to cope alone when they are experiencing such challenges in their day-to-day life.
It is important to provide support for parents, carers and schools as well as the individual child who is experiencing these problems directly.
To talk to one of our child and adolescent mental health experts about how Clinical Partners can help you please call 020 3761 7026.