This is described as a spectrum because although individuals with ASD share common features such as difficulties with understanding and engaging in social interaction, social communication and adapting to a world full of variation and change, each individual is on a spectrum of difficulty.
Some individuals with ASD may have mild features of the disorder or be high functioning (Asperger’s); others may be very severely disabled.
Diagnosis in early life is key to accessing health and educational supports necessary to progressing through childhood and adolescence. Many adults with ASD are severely disabled and will need lifelong help and support.
Although many individuals are diagnosed with ASD, few have access to the learning disability and social support that they need, hence most parents become the mainstay of support well into the child’s adult life.
Diagnosis of an ASD is based on validated screening instruments. Specialist assessment is needed.