Autism: One or many spectrums? Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Our conceptualisation of autism spectrum disorder has changed over time, with recent classifications reflecting a heterogeneous clinical presentation now regularly encountered in routine general paediatric practice. As the prevalence of autism and associated demands for services have increased so has research into understanding the cause and trials aimed at providing best care and intervention. However, the heterogeneity of autism has meant that no single aetiology can account for all differences in presentation, and not all children benefit from broad-based interventions. Now is the time to rethink how best to understand individual differences in order to focus research efforts and take steps towards more sophisticated strategies that go beyond the behaviours we look for when making an autism diagnosis. We suggest adopting a dimensional approach to autism assessment, with the consideration of eight spectrums of abilities, ways of thinking and behaviour. This eight-spectrum approach will assist clinicians to consider each individual's strengths and needs and personalise interventions and support accordingly. Profiling individual skills across these dimensions may also provide researchers with a greater capacity to link causal pathways with specific phenotypes, which is needed to develop precision medicine for autism.

publication date

  • 2018