Autism is diagnosed using the Diagnostic Criteria called the DSM-IV (r). I have included a copy of the criteria on the link below:
As you can see that sensory issues are not included in the criteria although many children with ASD DO have sensory issues. The main characteristics of Autism are as follows:
- Impairments in social interaction
- Impairment in communication
- Restrictive Interests
- Repetitive behaviour
- Sensory Challenges.
There is a co-morbidity of the following conditions with Autism:
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
- DCD (Development Co-ordination Disorder)
- Anxiety (common with HFA and AS)
- Seizures (up to a 50% increase of seizures when a child has Autism - usually in Adolescence)
- Pica - 5% of children with Autism have Pica
- 30-35% of children with ASD have sleep issues
Autistic children are part or whole learners. Autistic children will focus on small items and if there are changes in the small parts they may have issues, because the can't see the whole situation.
Children with ASD tend to prefer non-fiction because they can't relate to the social contexts within story books.
Difference between High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's Syndrome (AS)
There are important differences between HFA and AS. (This is a general guide take from the course text book - it's not a definitive analysis)
In HFA there is a preference for sameness however this doesn't appear to be particularly driven. Children with AS take "sameness" to a new "art-form" and has a driven quality to it.
Children with HFA have problems shifting rapidly and flexibility shifting from one thing to another and may get "stuck" on one thing in detriment to others. They aren't susceptible to environmental changes as children with AS, possibly due to this over-focusing blocking external distractions.
AS attention difficulties resemble those similar to ADHD (impulsivity and drawn to distractions).
High stimulation often causes hyper arousal in HFA students, where students with AS may need more intense stimulation.
Students with HFA may demonstrate the rudiments of imagination but the imagination will be under-developed and markedly impoverished. Students with AS have more varied responses including an over-active imagination where the boundary between reality and fantasy becomes blurred. However there is still a non-reciprocal/controlling aspect to play behaviour for children with AS.
There is an apparent lack of preference or interest in social interaction with children with HFA. Children with AS appear quite social on topics of interest and may impose their interests on others without understanding the "distress" signals given. Children with AS have a greater awareness of their social difficulties.
There is generally a less sophisticated use of language in both vocubulary and verbal expression for children with HFA. Children with AS have a greater use of language almost above normal - however this can be mis-leading as their comprehension may not match their vocabulary. AS children may also speak more metaphorically (i.e. round-about or idiosyncratically) than HFA children.
Sensory issues in AS children are not only more subtle but also deceptive. This means their sensory issues maybe overlooked.
A diagnosis of AS is usually made at a later age than that of HFA. Mis-diagnosis of AS is quite common, with other disorders being attributed before AS.
Less tendency to label HFA students as "willful", as their behaviour seems more reactive than deliberate. Some students with AS are quite oppositional.