Understand why autism is considered a spectrum

Understand why autism is considered a spectrum
Understand why autism is considered a spectrum

O Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder characterized by changes in the neurodevelopment that affect the ability to communicate, language, social interaction and behavior, according to the Ministry of Health.

It is estimated that, in Brazil, 2 million people live with this condition – a number that could be higher given that there are undiagnosed cases. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 36 children lives with ASD in the USA.

Why is autism considered a spectrum?

First, you need to know that, a few years ago, the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was not used. Instead, different nomenclatures were used to designate different degrees of autism.

It is estimated that, in Brazil, 2 million people live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Photograph: pingpao/Adobe Stock

“For example, the cases considered ‘milder’ were called ‘Asperger’s syndrome’, while the more ‘severe’ were known as ‘childhood disintegrative disorder’”, points out neuropediatrician Abram Topczewski, president of the Guidance Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder (Notea).

In 2013, however, with the release of the 5th Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses (DSM-5), this scenario changed. The document, produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), brought together all manifestations of autism under the same umbrella, which came to be called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In this sense, according to the expert, the term “spectrum” refers to a broad set, which encompasses the different variations of autism. “They are within the spectrum from the simplest to the most complex manifestations of autism”, he describes.

One of the main consequences of this change in nomenclature, according to the specialist, was the greater ease of diagnosing people with ASD. “This is something relevant, since only with the diagnosis is it possible to seek specialized medical help”, he explains.

According to Topczewski, the earlier the diagnosis, the greater the chances of success for therapies to stimulate patients’ development. “In relation to ASD, we are not talking about treatment, but about ways to reduce comorbidities and improve the patient’s quality of life. This can be done through psychological assistance, recreational activities or, eventually, neurological and psychiatric“, describe.

The article is in Portuguese

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