Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders

An summary of characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Provided by helpguide.org

In both children and adults, the signs and symptoms of the autism spectrum disorders include problems with social skills, speech and language, and restricted activities and interests. However, there are enormous differences when it comes to the severity of the symptoms, their combinations, and the patterns of behavior.

Keep in mind that just because your child has a few autism-like symptoms, it doesn’t mean he or she has an autism spectrum disorder. The autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt your child’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play, and learn.

Where does your child fall on the autism spectrum?

The three autism spectrum disorders share many of the same symptoms, but they differ in their severity and impact. Classic autism, or autistic disorder, is the most severe of the autism spectrum disorders.  Milder variants are Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes called high-functioning autism, and PDD-NOS, or atypical autism. According to the Autism Spectrum Resource Center, only 20% of people on the autism spectrum have classic autism. The overwhelming majority fall somewhere on the milder range of the spectrum.

Since the autism spectrum disorders share many similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other, particularly in the early stages. If your child is developmentally delayed or exhibits other autism-like behaviors, you will need to visit a medical professional for a thorough evaluation. Your doctor can help you figure out where, or even if, your child fits on the autistic spectrum.

Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders: Social skills

Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:

  • Unusual or inappropriate body language, gestures, and facial expressions (e.g. avoiding eye contact or using facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying).
  • Lack of interest in other people or in sharing interests or achievements (e.g. showing you a drawing, pointing to a bird).
  • Unlikely to approach others or to pursue social interaction; comes across as aloof and detached; prefers to be alone.
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and nonverbal cues.
  • Resistance to being touched.
  • Difficulty or failure to make friends with children the same age.

Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders: Speech and language

Problems with speech and language comprehension are a telltale sign of the autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:

  • Delay in learning how to speak (after the age of 2) or doesn’t talk at all.
  • Speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch.
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent.
  • Trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going.
  • Difficulty communicating needs or desires.
  • Doesn’t understand simple statements or questions.
  • Taking what is said too literally, missing humor, irony, and sarcasm.

Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders: Restricted behavior and play

Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:

  • Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly.
  • Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches).
  • Preoccupation with a specific topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (maps, license plates, sports statistics).
  • A strong need for sameness, order, and routines (e.g. lines up toys, follows a rigid schedule). Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
  • Clumsiness, abnormal posture, or odd ways of moving.
  • Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys (e.g. spinning the wheels on a race car, instead of playing with the whole car).

How children with autism spectrum disorders play

Children with autism spectrum disorders tend to be less spontaneous than other kids. Unlike a typical curious little kid pointing to things that catch his or her eye, autistic children often appear disinterested or unaware of what’s going on around them. They also show differences in the way they play. They may have trouble with functional play, or using toys that have a basic intended use, such as toy tools or cooking set.  They usually don’t “play make-believe,” engage in group games, imitate others, or use their toys in creative ways.

Related signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders

While not part of autism’s official diagnostic criteria, children with autism spectrum disorders often suffer from one or more of the following problems:

  • Sensory problems – Many children with autism spectrum disorders either underreact or overreact to sensory stimuli. At times they may ignore people speaking to them, even to the point of appearing deaf. However, at other times they may be disturbed by even the softest sounds. Sudden noises such as a ringing telephone can be upsetting, and they may respond by covering their ears and making repetitive noises to drown out the offending sound. Children on the autism spectrum also tend to be highly sensitive to touch and to texture. They may cringe at a pat on the back or the feel of certain fabric against their skin.
  • Emotional difficulties – Children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. When stressed, he or she may exhibit disruptive or even aggressive behavior (breaking things, hitting others, or harming him or herself). The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also notes that autistic kids may be unfazed by real dangers like moving vehicles or heights, yet be terrified of harmless objects such as a stuffed animal.
  • Uneven cognitive abilities – The autism spectrum disorders occur at all intelligence levels. However, even kids with normal to high intelligence often have unevenly developed cognitive skills. Not surprisingly, verbal skills tend to be weaker than nonverbal skills. In addition, children with Autism spectrum disorders typically do well on tasks involving immediate memory or visual skills, while tasks involving symbolic or abstract thinking are more difficult.
Holistic treatment autism spectrum

Assessing Cause and Treating Autistic Kids and Autism Spectrum Adults

Focus on detoxification, immune status and brain biochemistry
A leaky gut syndrome is an inflammatory condition in the digestive track often brought on by allergies to foods such as dairy and wheat. It is also prominent with kids and adults that have elevated yeast or candida. This is either diet related, immune related or has to do with an imbalance of probiotics. The consequence is that toxins, brain toxins leak out of the digestive tract and affect the brain cells. The natural antioxidants that prevent this consequence of leaky gut includes glutathione. To correct leaky gut we test the conditions of the stool and improve the status of digestive enzymes, probiotics, HCL and status of candida.

Casein, Gluten and Autism
According to researchers from Penn State a gluten-free, casein-free diet may lead to improvements in behavior and physiological symptoms in children diagnosed with ASD.

“Research has shown that children with ASD commonly have GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms,” said Christine Pennesi, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. “Notably, a greater proportion of our study population reported GI and allergy symptoms than what is seen in the general pediatric population. Some experts have suggested that gluten- and casein-derived peptides cause an immune response in children with ASD, and others have proposed that the peptides could trigger GI symptoms and behavioral problems.”

“Gluten and casein seem to be the most immunoreactive,” Klein said. “A child’s skin and blood tests for gluten and casein allergies can be negative, but the child still can have a localized immune response in the gut that can lead to behavioral and psychological symptoms. When you add that in with autism you can get an exacerbation of effects.”

“If parents are going to try a gluten-free, casein-free diet with their children, they really need to stick to it in order to receive the possible benefits,” she said.

naturally remove metals

Metallothionein and Autism – MT Therapy
In October of 2001, a team of clinicians and researchers led by William Walsh, Ph.D. then at the Pheiffer Treatment Center, affiliated with the Health Research Institute now of Warrenville, IL, made available a scientific study entitled “Metallothionein and Autism”. Metallothionein is a protein that is critical to the process of detoxification of harmful substances, particularly heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
The paper describes a study of 503 patients on the autism spectrum vs. aged-matched non-autistic patients. The conclusion of this study was that “most autistic patients exhibit evidence of metallothionein (MT) dysfunction and this dysfunction may be a universal characteristic of autism-spectrum disorders”.
Correcting an impaired detoxification system in ASD autistic children.
William Walsh PhD believes that “MT dysfunction and autism may result from the intersection of two factors: (a) a genetic defect involving marginal or defective MT functioning, followed by (b) an environmental insult during early development which disables MT.”

Dr David Epstein D.O., Medical Director at Second Opinion Physician studied under William Walsh and received certification in applying the Walsh Protocol to autistic kids and autistic adults. The focus of therapy is based on a standard set of labs that are ordered for children to identify and correct biochemical factors that disable MT proteins. These include (a) severe zinc depletion, (b) abnormalities in the glutathione redox system, (c) cysteine deficiency, and (d) malfunction of metal regulating elements (MRE’s).”

Glutathione is a key amino acid in the role of detoxifying the cells of the those on the autistic spectrum including those with aspergers symptoms. It is a product of metabolism in the methionine cycle. With autistics there are very low to no levels of glutathione produced. Low levels lead to other processes that include the dysfunction of methylation and sulfation.

The treatment protocol at Second Opinion Physician for autistic kids and adults on the spectrum recognizes the importance of the Walsh panel for brain function performance assessment. Correction is based on the restoration of the detoxification pathways for removing metals, strengthening the immune system, repair of the gut and brain cells, regulation of zinc and copper levels in the blood and prevention of yeast overgrowth.
The tests include identifying methylation status. Impaired methylation impairs suflation. Sulfation improves the digestive tract, brain function and connective tissues of the body. It also facilitates the production of glutathione and prevents cellular breakdown by removing toxic metals from within the cell.

Second Opinion Physician tests for ASD autistic disorder include the following:
1. Histamine for determining methylation status
2. Zinc and copper levels to identify degree of oxidative stress due to reactive metals causing free radical toxicity.
3. Ceruloplasmin – a copper metallothionein that neutralizes the oxidative effects of copper and other metals.
4. Urinary pyrroles – inflammatory element that depletes the body of B6 and zinc, both critical to brain function
5. Testing for Casein and Gluten allergies
6. CDSA comprehensive digestive stool analysis for evidence of yeast overgrowth, probiotic status and digestive capacity.
7. Vitamin D levels to determine need to supplement for immune improvement

Based on results from tests and historical assessment, Second Opinion Physician natural health care plan will likely include one or more supplement strategies:
1. Correcting methylation imbalance either through slowing down or increasing methylation
2. Improving MT status with a blend of amino acids with high sulfur. The formula was made available to Walsh-Certified physicians.
3. Restoring gut health with sulfur through sulfur containing amino acids and MSM.
4. Diet modification with casein free casein free diet to eliminate allergens
5. Replace probiotics and control candida yeast
6. Supplement with methionine and B12 for undermethylated ASD children
7. Increase zinc and lower copper with supplementation of proper dose and form of trace minerals.
8. Managing pyrrole disorder with B6 and zinc when tests warrant.
9. Vitamin D supplementation