Maturational & Developmental Delays
Autism has been historically identified as a profile in individuals beginning in childhood that exhibit pervasive delays in development. Each individual on the Autism spectrum presents with a unique blend of developmental variables and individual traits. The “spectrum” refers to how many and to what extent these variable are present.
The variables that must be present to make a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) include delays in social language/communication and social interactions, along with restricted interests/desire for sameness, and repetitive behaviors.
Other variances that may be present include a continuum of skills involving cognitive ability, learning differences, executive functioning, sensory processing, motor skills, attention/concentration, theory of mind, and others.
Individuals are often diagnosed with ASD when their development is not consistent with expected behaviors. When infants do not interact or ‘attach’ typically to their caretakers, they are often identified early on, i.e. they do not look at faces of the caregiver, have differences in sleeping/feeding patterns, and have early infant temperamental concerns.
Toddlers & Pre-K
During the toddler years, children with ASD profiles may have difficulty with motor skill development and early language development and may be referred to Early Intervention services for screening and evaluation.
During the preschool years, individuals who may have an ASD profile might display difficulty with learning, differences in development of play and early social interactions, language and motor skill development, and often come to the attention of preschool staff or pediatricians.
During adolescence, social interaction challenges are most apparent during this difficult developmental stage. Individuals with ASD sense difficulty ‘fitting in’ and understanding the hidden rules and intuitive knowledge that their neurotypical peers often seem to have developed so easily.
I have heard individuals tell me that “….there is some secret that everyone knows but me, and no one will tell me what it is. How do I find this answer?"
Adulthood, the longest of life’s developmental stages, requires goal setting and the ability to make long term plans for life. The focus of these goals will include establishing independence in finances, relationships, family, employment, housing, and social/recreational areas.
Without a strong foundation involving the necessary social, emotional, cognitive, and regulatory skills required for adult functioning, many individuals with ASD may struggle throughout life.
It is strongly suggested that individuals and families involved with ASD profiles be mindful of the lifelong developmental issues of ASD and work as intensively and as early on as possible to utilize their strengths and talents.
Individual weaknesses and challenges should be addressed with the future in mind, and acceptance of their own unique profile, in order to find the balance of being themselves while adapting to many of the expectations that life places on everyone.