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Introduction to Autism. Session One. What is Autism. Presented by Marc Tardif Social Skills Program Co-ordinator. Learning Objectives:. After the workshop participants will be able to: Label the disorders which fall under the PDD umbrella Label the three Autism Spectrum Disorders

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what is autism

What is Autism

Presented by

Marc Tardif

Social Skills Program Co-ordinator

learning objectives
Learning Objectives:

After the workshop participants will be able to:

  • Label the disorders which fall under the PDD umbrella
  • Label the three Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Describe impairments in social interaction, communication, & behaviour
the latest statistics
The Latest Statistics…

1 in 165 Canadians are affected with ASD

Ratio of males to females 4:1

possible causes of autism
Possible Causes of Autism


Current research links ASD to biological or neurological differences in the brain


Some research suggests that environmental

factors play a part in the expression of ASD

dsm iv diagnostic criteria
DSM IV Diagnostic Criteria
  • At least two impairments in social interaction
  • At least one impairment in communication
  • At least one impairment in restricted or repetitive behaviour

A diagnosis requires a total of 6 or more impairments

present in total

impairment in social interaction
Impairment in Social Interaction
  • Impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviours
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to age level
  • Lack of spontaneous seeking and sharing
  • Lack of social or emotional reciprocity

*requires at least two impairments from this category

impairments in communication
Impairments in Communication
  • Delay or total lack of the development of spoken


  • In individuals with adequate speech, marked

impairment in ability to initiate or sustain conversation

  • Stereotyped, repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic


  • Lack of make-believe play or social imitative play

*requires at least one impairment from this category

restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour
Restricted, Repetitive and Stereotyped Patterns of Behaviour
  • Preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and

restricted patterns of interest

  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific,

nonfunctional routines or rituals

  • Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms
  • Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

*requires at least one impairment from this category

  • A diagnosis is reached after an assessment is completed by a pediatrician or a psychologist
  • Diagnosis can take place as early as 18 months
  • There is no proven cause or cure for autism

(Scientific American Journal, 2000)


Pervasive Developmental Disorder







Autism Spectrum

Disorders (ASDs)

childhood disintegrative disorder
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Extremely rare: Prevalence rate 1.7/100 000
  • Typical development until age two
  • Onset usually between 36 – 46 months
  • Significant loss of skills
  • More common in boys than girls 4:1

(Canadian Journal of Psychiatry- In Review)

rett s syndrome
Rett’s Syndrome
  • 1 in 10,000-23,000
  • Have normal head size at birth and normal


  • Between 5 – 48 months head growth slows
  • Develop stereotypic hand movements
  • Poor coordination and social withdrawal occurs

(Source: Canadian Journal if Psychiatry- In Review)

pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified pdd nos
Pervasive Developmental Disorder –Not Otherwise Specified(PDD-NOS)
  • Referred to as “Atypical” autism
  • Do not meet criteria for full autism diagnosis
  • Traditionally seen as a “milder” form of autism
  • Is a diagnosis by exclusion of other disorders in

autistic spectrum

  • Screening and assessment is the same as for


asperger syndrome
Asperger Syndrome
  • Must have both:

1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction

2. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities

  • No delay in language development, though language development may be peculiar
  • Fail to make connection between thoughts/feelings and behaviour/actions
  • Symptoms may be subtle or even undetected until child is over 3 years of age

Facts about Asperger’s

Syndrome (AS)

  • First identified by Dr. Hans Asperger
  • in 1944
  • Approximately 5 out of every 10,000
  • people 15,000 Canadians
  • More common in boys than girls (4:1)

(Autism Society, 2005)

  • Usually manifests itself during the first three years of life
  • Problems with social interactions is the hallmark symptom as people with ASD have problems relating to others
  • The range and intensity of disability varies widely
  • Associated with developmental disability
high functioning autism hfa vs asperger s syndrome as
High-functioning Autism (HFA) vs. Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)

DSM-IV-TR criteria:

  • History of language delay in HFA but not in AS
  • Intact cognitive functioning in AS but not in HFA

(Tsai, 2005)


(Condillac, 2003)


Triad of Impairments

Social Interaction

Language and Communication

Restricted, Repetitive Behaviour

social deficits
Social Deficits
  • Lack of reciprocal social interactions
  • Unusual reaction to other’s emotions
  • Lack of joint attention
  • May not seek out the company of peer
  • Avoidance of eye contact
communication deficits
Communication Deficits
  • Idiosyncratic use of language
  • Literal interpretation of language
  • Echolalia or delayed echolalia
  • Use of unusual expressions
  • Tend to use third person
  • Difficulty initiating/sustaining a conversation
communication deficits24
Communication Deficits

Thank you MGM. Rain Man Best Picture 1988

communication deficits25
Communication Deficits

Literal Interpretation

temple grandin
Temple Grandin

“During the last couple of years I have become more aware of a kind of

electricity that goes on between people. I have observed that when

several people are together and having a good time, their speech and

language follow a rhythm. They will all laugh together and then talk quietly until

the next laughing cycle…”

“I have always had a hard time fitting in with this rhythm, and I usually interrupt

conversations without realizing my mistake. The problem is that I can’t follow

the rhythm.”

(Grandin, 1995)

behavioural deficits
Behavioural Deficits
  • Insistence on sameness
  • No real fear of dangers
  • Hand or arm flapping
  • Spins objects
  • Tantrums
  • Inappropriate attachment to objects
  • Uneven gross or fine motor skills


+ 2

Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours

Social Interactions

Language and




anxiety and pdd
Anxiety and PDD
  • Neurological differences responsible for anxiety coping
  • Anxiety is a subjective response to stimuli
  • Difficulty using “buffers”
  • Behaviours quickly become an anxiety reduction tool

Kevin Baskerville (2005)

sensory issues
Sensory Issues

Children with Autism tend to overreact or under react to sensory input

  • Under react (hyposensitive): don’t respond to small or even moderate amounts of stimulation in the area of their sensitivity (i.e., fail to respond to ordinary speech)
  • Over react (hypersensitive): find small or moderate amount of stimulation overloading or irritating (i.e., speech or television)
sensory issues33
Sensory Issues
  • Auditory- hearing appears to be selective
  • Visual- attraction or aversion to particular visual


  • Tactile- attachment to objects may be related to

tactile qualities

  • Taste- non-food items are sometimes tasted
  • Smell- sometimes become fixated on the smell of


risk markers red flags
Risk Markers ("Red Flags")


  • Little or no eye contact
  • Difficulty mixing with other children
  • No functional play but uses objects in a repetitive manner (lining up, stacking)
  • Prefers to be alone
  • May not want to be held or cuddled
risk markers red flags36
Risk Markers ("Red Flags")


  • Inappropriate laughing or giggling
  • Echolalia
  • Not responsive to verbal cues
  • Difficulty in expressing needs, failure to use gestures or pointing in place of words
risk markers red flags37
Risk Markers ("Red Flags")


  • Insistence on sameness, resists change in routine
  • No real fear of danger
  • Toe walking
  • Hand or arm flapping
  • Apparent insensitivity to pain
  • Spins objects
  • Noticeable physical over/under activitiy
  • Tantrums
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills

Autism Speaks

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