An arrow icon
back to all posts

Autism Spectrum Disorder - A Special Neurological Condition

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological and developmental condition that affects the way an individual communicates, interacts, and processes information. While it is possible to diagnose autism at any stage of life, it is classified as a "developmental disorder" because symptoms typically manifest in the first 2 years of life. Autism is referred to as a "spectrum" disorder due to the wide range of symptoms that individuals may experience and their varying degrees of severity (NIMH, 2023).

What are the symptoms of ASD?

According to the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association that health care providers use to diagnose mental disorders, individuals with ASD often experience challenges with social communication and interaction. They may have difficulty expressing themselves effectively and engaging with others. In addition, people with ASD tend to have repetitive behaviors, such as following a routine or performing tasks in a certain way, and limited interests, such as social interactions, and instead have specific obsessions or fixations on certain objects, topics, or activities (NIMH, 2023). These symptoms can significantly impact their ability to function in various areas of life, including education, employment, and other daily activities. Individuals with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. Although people with ASD face daily challenges, many have been found to have specific talents or strengths. They often demonstrate good memory, artistic, musical, or mathematical skills (Happé, 2018). But it's important to note that each case of ASD can present with different symptoms and behaviors, and each individual is unique.

What causes ASD?

The primary cause of ASD is still unknown. Research suggests that a person's genes may interact with elements of their environment, resulting in developmental changes that contribute to ASD. Certain environmental factors, such as prenatal complications, maternal infections and exposures, and advanced parental age, may also contribute to the risk (NIH, 2023).

Autism in adulthood

Autism does not subside with age. Individuals diagnosed with autism in childhood continue to experience its effects throughout adulthood. However, as they grow older, they may develop coping mechanisms and adaptive skills that help them overcome the challenges they face. Diagnosing ASD in adults is often more challenging than diagnosing it in children because some of the symptoms of ASD can overlap with those of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (APA, 2023).

What can you do?

Due to the nature of ASD, there isn't a one size fits all treatment for individuals, as each case of ASD can show individual symptoms. Rather, treatment focuses on improving the individual's daily life by helping them overcome the specific struggles and challenges they face with their autism.

A healthcare provider may prescribe medication to manage symptoms associated with ASD, such as anxiety, depression, or hyperactivity, that affect the individual's overall well-being and functioning.

Individuals may also work with a healthcare provider in behavioral therapy, which often includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). These types of therapies usually focus on improving communication, social, and behavioral difficulties. For some individuals, speech and occupational therapy may be beneficial to address specific difficulties related to communication, sensory processing, and fine motor skills.

Individuals diagnosed with ASD typically continue to learn and adapt throughout their lives, but many may still need some level of support. Therefore, it is important to create an environment and society that understands and supports individuals with autism. This includes improving accessibility, expanding educational and employment opportunities, and fostering acceptance and understanding within society when it comes to the daily challenges individuals with ASD face.


APA. (2023, November 1). How to navigate adulthood on the autism spectrum. American Psychological Association.

Happé, F. (2018). Why are savant skills and special talents associated with autism? World Psychiatry, 17(3), 280–281.

NIH. (2023, April). Autism. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

NIMH. (2023, February). Autism Spectrum Disorder - National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). National Institute of Mental Health.

Stay in the loop!

Don't miss out on the New Blog Posts! We cover mental health topics with valuable insights and tips from Clare and our experts.

Get an email notification straight to your inbox.