April Newsletter – Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts brain development. The result is that most individuals experience communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. They may also have a markedly restricted range of activities and interests.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is typically accompanied by co-occurring medical conditions such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal (gut) abnormalities and immune dysregulation. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are common. Any of these conditions may severely impact an individual’s quality of life.

The term “spectrum” refers to a range or continuum of severity or of developmental impairment. Children and adults with ASDs may have particular characteristics in common but the condition covers a wide spectrum, with individual differences in the following:

  • Number and particular kinds of symptoms
  • Severity: Mild to severe
  • Age of onset
  • Levels of functioning
  • Challenges with social interactions.

Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to have varying degrees and combinations of symptoms and therefore, treatment must be specific to the individual. It is also important to keep in mind that children, teens and adults with autism vary widely in their needs, skills and abilities. There is no standard “type” or “typical” person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

According to the National ASD Surveillance System 2018 report, Autism Prevalence among Children and Youth in Canada an estimated 1 in 54 children and youth between 5 and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with ASD. The report is based on 2015 health, education and social services data collected from seven participating provincial and territorial governments representing 40% of children and youth in Canada.

Attention has recently shifted away from a focus that was almost exclusively on early diagnosis and interventions in young children on the spectrum. Autism is a lifelong condition. Society needs to recognize that adults on the spectrum deserve appropriate medical care, social support, educational accommodations, employment opportunities and housing.


Each person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is unique. Words used to describe an individual who is on the autism spectrum are being questioned more and more by the autism community. Terms such as “mild” or “severe” and labels like “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” are not particularly accurate and could be viewed as harmful. Someone who can’t talk might have better social skills than someone who speaks well. What if the person who can speak is unable to pick up on social cues? A medical diagnosis might label the non-verbal individual as being more “severely” autistic than the verbal one. While individuals with autism are on a spectrum, the line is possibly more blurred than originally thought.

Some children and adults with autism have serious cognitive disabilities and sensory problems. They may display extremely repetitive behaviours including meltdowns, self-injury, defensiveness and aggression. These are often provoked by anxiety and/or pain. Without appropriate intervention and an understanding of the underlying cause, behaviours may become persistent and difficult to change. Living with and caring for a person with autism can be challenging, requiring tremendous patience and an understanding of the condition.

Individuals with ASD may present with
some of the following exceptional characteristics:

  • Non-verbal reasoning (the ability to understand and analyse visual information and solve problems using visual reasoning)
  • Exceptional memory
  • Perceptual motor skills (hand-eye coordination, body-eye coordination, auditory language skills)
  • Computer proficiency
  • Exceptional skills in creative and imaginative expression (music, art, writing, drama)
  • Visuospatial ability (capacity to identify visual and spatial relationships among objects)

The above exceptional skills may be combined with subtle characteristics in other areas of development.

Autism Edmonton’s calendar is always jam packed with things going on! Take a look below to explore what Autism Edmonton is up to over the next month.