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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that involves difficulties in the areas of reciprocal social communication, repetitive behaviour and/or restricted interests. Children with ASD can have highly variable levels of intelligence, ranging from children with intellectual disabilities to children who are highly capable. 

According to data from 2018, in the United States, 1 in every 59 children has ASD, with expression being 4 times more common in boys than in girls. In Europe, the latest prevalence data is between 1-2% of the population. 

In spite of the greater social awareness attained regarding ASD, in recent years in our society many myths persist that need to be broken, such as that which states that children with autism cannot interact or that they reject physical contact.

Children with ASD who are not diagnosed and not treated properly often enter into a downward spiral of isolation, demotivation, low self-esteem and secondary affective disorders.

Autism is a very broad spectrum that manifests itself very differently in each child, taking into account gender, cognitive ability and context, among other variables. The following characteristics are examples of situations that can lead us to suspect ASD, although they do not have to occur in all children with a diagnosis.

Boys

  • Difficulties with social relationships.
  • Language delay or communication problems.
  • Literalness in language.
  • Difficulties in non-verbal communication: facial rigidity, poor eye contact, little use of gestures. 
  • Rigidity and difficulties in addressing changes.
  • Repetitive behaviour. 
  • Highly specific or peculiar interests.
  • Behavioural problems.
  • Difficulties in self-regulating emotions.
  • Anxiety and low mood.
  • Problems in social understanding.
  • High sense of justice.

 

Girls

  • Rich, sophisticated verbal language.
  • Non-verbal language preserved (visual contact, use of gestures, etc.).
  • Comorbidity with anxiety.
  • Cognitive rigidity and very dominant in games.
  • They usually have a small group of friends.
  • Low level of mischief.
  • High levels of perfectionism.
  • Difficulties in recognising and externalising feelings.
  • In adolescence, high comorbidity with affective and eating disorders.
  • Restricted, much more adaptive interests (make-believe teacher play, reading or animals).

What do we offer at SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital?

Diagnosis

Neurology
Clinical psychology
Psychiatry
Speech therapy

Treatment

Individual/group treatment.
Advice to the family and the school.
Advice to teachers.
Cognitive behavioural treatment.
Social skills workshops.
Parent workshops.
Drug treatment.

Progress monitoring

Follow-up visits depending on the needs identified

FAQs on autism spectrum disorder

Are there any differences between boys and girls with ASD?

Yes, the profiles of boys and girls with ASD are usually different. You can see the distinct characteristics further up this page.

Will he/she recover completely?

ASD is a way of being and of processing information differently from the rest of the population. So, we cannot talk about a recovery.
It is understood that the treatment is based on providing appropriate strategies so that they can look after themselves and to ensure that their difficulties interfere as little as possible in their everyday lives.

How long does the treatment last?

The duration of treatment is variable, depending on the expression and progression of the symptoms of each case, although, generally speaking, a follow-up/accompaniment will be necessary throughout the different stages of life.

What should be the school’s role after diagnosis?

The school plays an important role in the development of a student with ASD. Therefore, the professionals at SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital ASD Unit are always in contact with the teachers to exchange views and offer the necessary help at any time of the child or adolescent’s school life.

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