Contribution from Sarah Wallengang
Every once in a while, the Leka Team is happy to welcome external contributors and share their food for thoughts. This post has been written by Sarah Wallengang.

In recent years the study and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased among professional clinicians. It is now recognized that this disorder presents itself on a “spectrum” of signs and symptoms that vary in severity from person to person. At its core, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a number of developmental disorders that impair one’s ability to successfully interact and communicate with other people.

It is believed that more children than ever are being diagnosed with ASD—roughly 1 in 68 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—but this could also be due to increased knowledge of the disorder. It’s most commonly diagnosed in childhood (signs of ASD can appear even in infancy) but is also diagnosed in adults. And while there is still much to learn about this disorder and what causes it, there are signs and symptoms to look out for.

These signs and symptoms include:

Restrictive or Repetitive Behaviors

  • Repeating unusual behaviors or appearing to lack control over the ability to stop repetitive behaviors
  • Having overly focused interest on certain objects
  • Extreme interest in numbers, facts, or other details that doesn’t fade over time

Struggles with Communication and Interaction

  • Struggle to adapt to changes in routine or environment
  • Responding unusually to others’ displays of anger or stress
  • Lack of eye contact or interest in listening to other people
  • Difficulty maintaining a back and forth conversation
  • Repeating words spoken by others or saying words and phrases that seem out of place or unrelated to a conversation
  • Slow to respond to attempts to gain their attention
  • Excessive talking about a topic they’re fascinated with and failing to realize that the person they’re talking to isn’t interested
  • Struggling to understand others’ points of views or feelings
  • Being unable to predict how others will react or behave in a given situation

Strengths or Increased Abilities

  • Above average intelligence
  • Ability to learn about things in great detail and remember what was learned
  • Strong visual and auditory learners
  • Excelling in math, science, music or art

To best diagnose ASD, proper assessments are vital. These can reveal previously unnoticed signs and gauge where an individual falls on the spectrum, giving way to better treatment and more successful coping with this disorder.

The Social Responsiveness Scale™. Second Edition (SRS™-2) is a short yet thorough assessment for identifying the severity of social impairment symptoms and how they fall on the Autism spectrum, as well as their relation to other disorders that may need further diagnosing. It uses a multiple perspective approach, including rankings from parents, teachers, and other trusted adults to evaluate symptoms. This, combined with a clinical perspective, provides an evaluation of even subtle symptoms to best form a treatment plan for a given individual. It can be administered to children as young as 2.5 years through adulthood, meaning you can use it to continue to monitor symptoms as children grow.

If you’re in need of an adaptive skills assessment, the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, Third Edition (ABAS®-3) offers the ability to rate adaptive skills throughout the lifespan (birth to age 89). Easy to administer and score, its rating scale measures daily living skills—what people actually do or can do without assistance—and can be completed by parents, teachers, and clinicians (with a self-rating option for adults) to best qualify areas of struggle and help form a proper treatment plan. This assessment is particularly helpful for evaluating those with ASD and understanding how limited they are by it in terms of behavior.

We still have a lot to learn about the variations in ASD and how to best help those suffering from the disorder. However, proper assessment of individuals to help understand their limitations and strengths provides clinicians and other professionals with the ability to provide treatment that can help them cope with their symptoms and lead more successful lives.