In 2013, Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS (not otherwise specified) were rolled into one umbrella category: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a term describing a spectrum of neurodevelopmental conditions characterised by persistent impairment in reciprocal social communication and social interaction, and the presence of restricted and narrow interests, repetitive behaviour along with inflexibility in case of unexpected change.
Being a spectrum, the manifestations of the condition vary greatly among individuals who also might show associated intellectual related problems (below average IQ) and language delay while others instead do not show learning difficulties (they have normal and even above average IQ) and might have language delay (as in High Functioning Autism) or not (as in Asperger Syndrome). Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function.
ASD is also defined Autism Spectrum Conditions to emphasize that Autism is not only characterized by disabilities but also areas of strength (e.g., attention to detail, memory for detail, and pattern-recognition).
The majority of individuals with ASD have other co-occurring conditions, such as sleep problems, eating problems, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, coordination problem, ADHD, and sensory sensitivities. In adults these difficulties can lead to social isolation, relationship problems, difficulties with employment and low self-esteem. A diagnosis in adulthood is often a big relief as not only does it give an explanation but also enables support to be given, such as help with employment and benefits.
The adult ASD assessment at the Cambridge ADHD & ASD Clinic employs a comprehensive and evidence-based assessment involving the patient and an informant who can comment on the developmental and current history of the patient; information about the adult’s developmental history will help in making an accurate diagnosis. Moreover, ASD specific rating scales and questionnaires will need to be completed by the patient and the informant. The clinical interview itself can last up to three hours.