The Impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Social Understanding

A few months shy but never too late to spread the awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By detention, Autism is regarded as a disorder that affects how one perceives and socializes due to your brain development. This can often lead to having difficulty with social interaction and communication. The condition also displays restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. In autism spectrum disorder, the term “spectrum” alludes to the vast range of symptoms and severity. This could mean that the range of development could relate to great intellectual abilities and talents or the exact opposite. Throughout the article we will touch base with this disorder along with the stereotypes, misconceptions and truths about the disorder as a whole.


ASD ( Autism Spectrum Disorder), is seen to be diagnosed in one of every 68 children. It is also 4 times more likely to be found in males than it is in females. This disorder is particularly striking to me. This is said because it often relates to the stereotyped idea of intelligence. Although many theorists have found that ordinary geniuses like Isaac Newton and Einstein were likely to have autism, there is no doubt that intelligence is a trait and many genius-level talents are seen. However, this is not always the case. Similarly mentioned above, the spectrum varies greatly. Talents can range from art, math, science, technology, music, and memory, to name a few, or they could have nothing at all.

cartoon of a Nerdy boy wearing a suit and glasses. Surrounded by math formuli that show how smart he is. Can be Einstien or Newton as reference.
Credit: Pinterest

Common traits for autism are little to no eye contact, unresponsive during interaction (mistaken for emotionless) and impacted speech. They have a repetitive nature. This can be seen in how they may repeat words or phrases. It is also common for an autistic individual to have an obsessive interest. Anxiety, stress, hyperactivity and impulsivity are also underlying traits in autism.

ASD is often difficult to pick up on, because it can not be seen through medical tests such as blood work. It is most likely to be identified through behavior traits. A common age of 18 months to 2 years is diagnosed but in most cases, it is only seen much later. Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism but treatments have been developed to help with the symptoms of the disorder.

Additionally, the concept of the spectrum would describe a variety. Meaning, each case is different, some may experience the disorder like any other in many different forms or levels of intensity. For instance, one may have a special ability and not be able to speak, others may.

Types of ASD

Five of the most common types of ASD are Aspergers, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Kanner’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Asperger’s syndrome

Before 2013, Asperger’s syndrome was extremely common; however, medical experts no longer use the term. The DSM-5 diagnostic handbook has since classed it as level 1 autism spectrum disorder. Even yet, Asperger’s syndrome is commonly utilized in autism societies, and it is used more frequently than level 1 spectrum disorder. A child with a level 1 spectrum disorder will have above-average intelligence and great verbal skills, but will have difficulty communicating socially. Additionally, the child will, on average, exhibit the following symptoms: an inability to think and act in a flexible manner. Switching between activities becomes a challenge. Problems with executive functions, flat, monotonous speech, inability to express feelings in their speech, or the inability to vary their pitch to meet their surroundings. Interacting with classmates at school or at home is difficult.

Rett syndrome

Rett syndrome is an uncommon neurodevelopmental condition that manifests in early childhood. Although it is more common in girls, it can also be diagnosed in boys. Rett syndrome poses difficulties in nearly every element of a child’s life. The good news is that, with adequate care, your child can still enjoy and live a fulfilling life. You may spend quality time as a family and assist the child in doing what they enjoy. The following are some of the most common Rett syndrome symptoms: standard mobility and coordination are lost, communication and speech difficulties and some may have trouble breathing.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

CDD, also known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis, is a neurodevelopmental illness marked by the beginning of developmental impairments in language, motor skills, or social function at a later age. A child’s development in these areas is normal until they reach the age of three, when they hit a snag. For parents who had no idea their child had autism issues all along, the developmental loss can be devastating.

The cause of CDD is unknown, while it has been linked to brain neurobiology by studies. Boys are more likely to suffer from childhood disintegrative disorder. Nine out of ten cases of the disease will be boys, with only one being a female. The child will have normal growth until the condition begins, at which point regressions in more than two developmental aspects of their life will occur. Any of the following talents and abilities may be lost by the child: if you’ve already mastered your toileting skills, language or vocabulary that have been acquired, adaptive behaviors and social skills. Even some motor skills are lost.

Kanner’s Syndrome

Kanner’s syndrome was first identified in 1943 by John Hopkins University psychiatrist Leo Kanner, who classified it as infantile autism. The illness is also known as a classic autistic disorder, according to doctors. Kanner’s syndrome causes children to appear attractive, alert, and clever, despite the disorder’s underlying traits, which include: 
Inability to form emotional bonds with people, challenges in communication and interaction, unrestrained speech, obsession with controlling surroundings , rote memory and visuospatial skills are strong, but learning in other areas is tough.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – (PDD-NOS)

PDD-NOS, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, is a mild form of autism that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Challenges in social and language development are the most typical signs.
Your child’s language development, walking, and other motor skills may be delayed. This type of autism can be identified by observing the child and noting what areas the adolescent struggles with, such as interacting with people. PDD-NOS is also known as “subthreshold autism,” a phrase used to describe someone who exhibits some but not all of the symptoms of autism.

“Neuroanatomy isn’t destiny. Neither is genetics. They don’t define who you will be. But they do define who you might be. They define who you can be.”
Temple Grandin

Stereotypes about Autism

Autistic individuals are:

  1. Aggressive. The understanding here is that outbursts are experienced because of a trigger. Just like every other child, they act out for a reason. Common triggers are stress, anxiety and sensory overload.
  2. Really smart. It is seen this way because of how the media portrays the disorder. For example, “The good doctor or Sheldon”. As mentioned, the disorder has a large variety of complexities that are experienced. Intelligence may be a trait, but it may not be common.
  3. ...Emotionless. Individuals are able to feel just as much as anyone may, if not more. Just because their emotions are experienced differently does not mean they have none.
  4. Unable to communicate. It is seen that they may have difficulties communicating, but it doesn’t mean that it is inevitable. Their inability to speak often stems from other existing conditions that may be experienced.
  5. Are all male? Although it is more common in males, it does not mean a female is not able to have autism. There are also many misdiagnoses towards girls for several reasons, again becasuse of the complexities that come with the disorder.
the idea of being different or treated different. One person in orange while everyone else is in blue.
Credit: Pinterest

Autistic Brain

Scan of human and autistic brain
Credit: Temple Grandin

The image on the left is a representation of the brain of an individual with autism and on the right is a normal one. Author of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, Temple Grandin, gives an interesting perspective on ASD. Having ASD herself, she explains briefly how her brain works.

It is a given that we all have different ways of thinking, but its categories are different for kids on the spectrum. Now here is where my fascination with the disorder comes in. Grandin states that she basically thinks in pictures. She describes it as associative thinking. Meaning that she is able to picture a 3-D object as a whole, at all angles. NOT ONLY THAT, she found that other autistic individuals are able to think in numerical patterns or even words! She had mentioned that there were 3 specialized types of thinking. These were namely, visual thinkers; verbal/ logical thinkers; and musical/mathematical thinkers.

Everyone has a number of intellectual abilities, with strengths and weaknesses in different areas. However, people on the autism spectrum are prone to extremes. They excel at one way of looking at the world while failing miserably at others. For example, being highly artistic but unable to speak. Before she had begun her research, Temple assumed that everyone thought the same. But we obviously learnt that this was not true.

Additionally, in the book that Temple wrote, she speaks about the differences in the DSM-5 and why she is against the label of this book. The DSM-5 for Temple is greatly misleading when regarding the autistic criteria. This is because of the changes that it had from its first publication in 1952. In fact, the DSM-5 didn’t even categorize the disorder at all. In 1968, the second publication came out and even then there were no criteria. The DSM-3 came out in 1980 and another in 1987, which had the majority of the criteria, following 6 of the schizophrenic symptoms. One major flaw that Temple picked up on was that 51% of the children they studied had autism and then 91% of the same studied kids were believed to have autism.

However, the DSM-5 changed the idea of autism as a whole.

DSM-5 (1)

Side note: The DSM-5 is a diagnostic manual that is used to assess or as a guide when confronting a disorder. IF any relatable symptoms come up or concerns, seek professional advice. A minimum of two confined, repetitive, or sensory behaviors are needed before a diagnosis can be confirmed.

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, current or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text):

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity range, for example, from an abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or effects; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in  sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Specify current severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior. 

DSM-5 (2):

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):

  1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take the same route or eat food every day).
  3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).
  4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Specify current severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. (See table below.)

DSM-5 (3):

C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for the general developmental level.

Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

Specify if:

  • With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
  • With or without accompanying language impairment
    • (Coding note: Use additional code to identify the associated medical or genetic condition.)
  • Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
    • (Coding note: Use additional code[s] to identify the associated neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder[s].)
  • With catatonia 
  • Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

The level of severity of the disorder can be found here.

a medical professional with a knotted rope as hands.
Credit: Pinterest

Again, if you sense any related symptoms or characteristics, consult with a professional. This article may be used for brief understanding as the disorder can be much more complex than what was written. . The purpose of the DSM-5 was for the interest of criteria.. Do not self-diagnose. Google is not the best psychiatrist either.


Autism is a complex disorder that is categorized by a number of symptoms that may relate to a specific type of spectrum. Research on the disorder has grown significantly over the years and gives more reliable information to work with. Although it is fairly difficult to grasp, there is always hope. The effect it has on one’s social life may vary. It may be fairly simple or quite difficult. Above all,  Grandin said, “In dealing with autism, I’m certainly not saying we should lose sight of the need to work on deficits, But the focus on deficits is so intense and so automatic that people lose sight of the strengths.

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