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Many of you may be confused as to an article on Autism is in a Sensory Processing Disorder website…others of you may know.  The reason it’s included is because we see SO many children on the Autism Spectrum show signs of processing delays.  I also wanted to include an article on what Autism is as I believe some children are getting misdiagnosed – children with processing delays only, children with speech delays, children with behavioral difficulties, and children with “quirky” behaviors are frequent victims.

In fact, it seems that Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are sometimes the newest “fads” in pediatric developmental disorders.  People with little bits of information see a child on their tip toes and say “That child is toe walking, he must have autism”.  A teacher sees a student that is shy and struggling with making friends and says “She has no social skills, she must have autism”.  A therapist in early intervention works with a child with developmental delays who struggles attending to play tasks and crashes into the furniture and says “He is all over the place, he must have sensory issues”.  While is imperative that we continue to educate people about Autism and SPD, it important to remember to look at the child as a whole being and define them by  1 or 2 characteristics.

I believe this is particular true when determining if a child has autism. It is without a doubt that people all over the world are becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders…it’s hard to be with articles stating as many as 1 in 38 children could be affected.  Autism is a hot topic but, in my opinion, not well understood.  I’m going to outline the diagnostic criteria psychologists look for when assessing a child to determine if they have autism and try to use everyday language and examples.  Here is the link which shows the criteria professionals (psychologists, developmental pediatricians) use.


The American Psychiatric Association (APA)published the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013. The previous edition, DSM-IV, was published in 1994.  There were several changes made to the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

Here is a summary of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder:

1.) All of the following symptoms describing persistent deficits in social communication/interaction across contexts, not accounted for by general developmental delays, must be met:

  1. Problems reciprocating social or emotional interaction, including difficulty establishing or maintaining back-and-forth conversations and interactions, inability to initiate an interaction, and problems with shared attention or sharing of emotions and interests with others.
  2. Severe problems maintaining relationships — ranges from lack of interest in other people to difficulties in pretend play and engaging in age-appropriate social activities, and problems adjusting to different social expectations.
  3. Nonverbal communication problems such as abnormal eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures, as well as an inability to understand these.

2.) Two of the four symptoms related to restricted and repetitive behavior need to be present:

  1. Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements or use of objects.
  2. Excessive adherence to routines, ritualized patters of verbal or nonverbal behavior, or excessive resistance to change.
  3. Highly restricted interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.
  4. Hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.