The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to autism:
Autism – disorder of neural development that affects social interaction and communication, and involves restricted and repetitive behavior.
What type of thing is autism?
An autistic toddler plays by stacking cans
Autism can be described as all of the following:
- Disability – may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.
- Developmental disability – a term used in the United States and Canada to describe lifelong disabilities attributable to mental or physical impairments, manifested prior to age 18.
- Disorder –
- Developmental disorder – occur at some stage in a child's development, often slowing the development.
- Neurodevelopmental disorder – or disorder of neural development, is an impairment of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system.
Signs of autism
Signs of autism are highly variable. Different individuals will have a different mix of traits. Here are some of the more common signs:
- Avoidance of eye contact – preference to avoid eye contact and feelings of fear or overwhelm when looking into someone's eyes
- Developmental delay – slower acquisition of life skills
- Emotional dysregulation – mood swings, including outbursts when overwhelmed
- Executive dysfunction – difficulty staying organized, initiating tasks, and/or controlling impulses
- Routines – need for routine and fear of unexpected change
- Sensory processing disorder – over- or under-responsiveness to sensory input
- Sincerity – tendency to tell the truth
- Special interests – narrow and passionate areas of interest
- Stimming – repetitive movements or sounds that stimulate the senses and regulate emotion and/or sensory processing
Societal and cultural aspects of autism
- Autism rights movement (ARM) – (a subset of the neurodiversity movement, also known as the anti-cure movement or autistic culture movement) is a social movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rather than a mental disorder to be cured.
- Autistic art – art created by autistic artists or art which captures or conveys a variety of autistic experiences or demeanor.
- Global perceptions of autism − an overview of the diagnosis, treatment, and experience of autism in developing nations.
- Identity-first language − the practice of using disability-related words as regular adjectives, such as saying "autistic person" rather than "person with autism".
- Neurodiversity – the standpoint that atypical neurological development is a normal human difference that should be accommodated instead of rejected.
- Neurotypical – (or NT) is a term that was coined in the autistic community as a label for non-autistic people who have no brain-related health conditions or disabilities: specifically, neurotypical people have neurological development and states that are consistent with what most people would perceive as normal, particularly with respect to their ability to process linguistic information and social cues.
- Social model of disability – the view that disability is caused by societal failure to accommodate human diversity, rather than by a defect in the individual.
- Societal and cultural aspects of autism – come into play with recognition of autism, approaches to its support services and therapies, and how autism affects how we define personhood.
Therapies, interventions, and potentially effective treatments
An autistic child and a therapist enjoying an aquarium
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA) – a science that involves using modern behavioral learning theory to modify behaviors.
- Cognitive behavior therapy – a therapy to help with thought distortions.
- Dialectical behavior therapy – a therapy that works on emotion regulation and social skills, originally developed for people with borderline personality disorder.
- Floortime – a developmental intervention involving meeting a child at their current developmental level, and challenging them to move up the hierarchy of milestones outlined in the DIR Model.
- Gluten-free, casein-free diet – or gluten-free dairy-free diet (GFDF diet) eliminates dietary intake of the naturally occurring proteins gluten (found most often in wheat, barley, rye, and commercially available oats), and casein (found most often in milk and dairy products).
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a potentially risky therapy with unclear evidence of benefit.
- Hug machine – hug box, a squeeze machine, or a squeeze box, is a deep-pressure device designed to calm hyper-sensitive persons, usually autistic people.
- Lovaas technique – a behavior modification technique.
- Pivotal response therapy (PRT) – also referred to as pivotal response treatment or pivotal response training, is a behavioral intervention therapy for autism.
- The P.L.A.Y. Project –
- Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) – a trademarked proprietary treatment program for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), based on the belief that the development of dynamic intelligence is the key to improving the quality of life for individuals with autism.
- Son-Rise – a therapy encouraging adults to connect with autistic children.
- Speech therapy – therapy to improve speaking skills.
- TEACCH – a program that provides quality-of-life services.
Medications and supplements
- Clomipramine – (trademarked as Anafranil) is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA).
- Fluvoxamine – (brand name Luvox) is an antidepressant which functions as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
- Haloperidol – a typical antipsychotic.
- Risperidone – (Risperdal, and generics) is a second-generation or atypical antipsychotic.
- Vitamin B12 – vitamin B-12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood.
- Ethical challenges to autism treatment – considerations about whether autism treatments could be harmful or inhumane, especially if therapists are physically hurting the person or training them to suppress important coping mechanisms in order to please non-autistic people.
Associated and possibly associated conditions
Conditions comorbid to autism spectrum disorders
These are conditions that people on the autism spectrum may suffer from more often than is typical.
- Alexithymia – a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a condition with three subtypes: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined.
- Clinical depression – a mental illness involving low mood and fatigue.
- Coeliac disease – spelled celiac disease in North America and often celiac sprue, is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward.
- Communication disorder – a speech and language disorder which refers to problems in communication and in related areas such as oral motor function.
- Crohn's disease (MAP) – which causes a similar disease, Johne's disease, in cattle.
- Deafness – or hearing impairment, is a partial or total inability to hear where the ability would usually be expected.
- Developmental coordination disorder – a disorder involving motor skill impairments.
- Dyscalculia – a specific learning disability involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic.
- Dysgraphia – a deficiency in the ability to write primarily in terms of handwriting, but also in terms of coherence.
- Dyslexia – a very broad term defining a learning disability that impairs a person's fluency or comprehension accuracy in being able to read, and which can manifest itself as a difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, or rapid naming.
- Echolalia – the automatic repetition of vocalizations made by another person.
- Erotophobia – a term coined by a number of researchers in the late 1970s and early 1980s to describe one pole on a continuum of attitudes and beliefs about sexuality.
- Hyperlexia – the precocious ability to read words without prior training in learning to read typically before the age of 5.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine.
- Intellectual disability – a generalized disorder appearing before adulthood, characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors.
- Multiple-complex Developmental Disorder –
- Multisystem Developmental Disorder –
- Nonverbal learning disorder – or nonverbal learning disability (NLD or NVLD) is a condition characterized by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal and lower motor, visuo-spatial, and social skills on an IQ test.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior that temporarily eases anxiety.
- Picture thinking – visual thinking
- Pyroluria –
- Sensory processing disorder – a disorder characterized by a sensory integration deficit.
- Sensory defensiveness – a condition defined as having "a tendency to react negatively or with alarm to sensory input which is generally considered harmless or non-irritating" to neurotypical persons.
- Sensory overload – related to cognitive load in general, is a condition where one or more of the senses are strained and it becomes difficult to focus on the task at hand.
- Social alienation – estrangement, division, or distancing of people from each other, or of people from what is important or meaningful to them, or of a person from their own sense of self.
- Social communication disorder – a condition similar to autism that involves difficulty with written language.
- Tourette syndrome – a disorder characterized by repetitive motor and vocal tics.