Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social, communication skills and repetitive behaviors that significantly impair daily functioning (APA, 2013). As the name suggests, the difficulties presented are situated on a spectrum and often vary from one person to the next.
Over the past decade, ASD has been the most rapidly growing developmental delay with children and teenagers in public schools, accounting for almost 1% of school-aged children (Ghali, et al., 2014). Contrary to popular belief, this increased prevalence is not the result of an “epidemic,” but rather that of increased knowledge, increased awareness, and increasingly accessible screening services (Fombonne, 2012). While certain autism symptoms can be identified at a very young age (under 2 years old), diagnoses are generally difficult to establish at that age due to the large variation in children’s development.
At present, ASD is attributed to genetic, environmental and neurological factors. Approximately 10% of individuals with ASD seem to have a genetic component such as a new mutation. As for the other variables, different risk factors (advanced parental age, viral infection during pregnancy, pollutants, medications during pregnancy, etc.) could interact and subsequently increase the risk of developing the disorder (Chaste et al., 2012; Gardener et al., 2009; Levy, 2009). To this end, it is important to note that those are not necessarily causal factors but rather risk factors. Lastly, although the cerebral functioning of individuals with ASD has not reached unanimity in the literature, some studies seem to suggest that the two hemispheres of the brain do not seem to be optimally synchronized, thus affecting their information processing (Dinstein et al.2011).