Autism. What is it really? According to the DSM-5; The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, autism is diagnosed based on two main characteristics:
- Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction and
- Restricted, repetitive behaviour or interests.
Autism is behaviourally defined, which means that there is no biological testing, no blood test, no DNA test or brain scan that can be done to diagnose the condition. There are currently no identified biological markers. A diagnosis is based heavily on anecdotal reports from family, therapists and teachers.
There are a lot of assumptions around what autism ‘is’, but I believe our current definitions are only ‘scratching the surface’. I believe that the nature of autism is so complex that it reaches far beyond the observable behavioural traits defined in the DSM-5. Many children on the spectrum experience neurological issues such as seizures, dyspraxia, sensory processing disorders, sleep difficulties and poor muscle tone. They will also commonly present with biological issues such as gastrointestinal problems, allergies and immune related conditions. So although autism is behaviourally defined, there is so much more to it than what meets the eye.
The label ‘autism’, is just that. It is a label given to a cluster of behavioural symptoms. I implore you not to spend your precious time worrying about the label. We must move beyond the diagnosis and not limit treatment approaches to those which treat the condition according to the DSM-5 only.
What characteristics does your child present with?
With love and hope,