Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment


By Luke Dalfiume, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Co-Owner,

John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates


Autism Spectrum Disorder is sometimes hard to diagnose. Many with Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnoses today would have simply been thought of as “characters” or as “eccentric” in the past. Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a pattern of social deficits which contributes to difficulties developing reciprocal, mutually-beneficial relationships as well as restrictive or repetitive behavior or interests. Until a few years ago the term “Asperger Disorder” was used as well as the term “Autistic Disorder.” Asperger Disorder referred to those with significant social impairment but more typical intellectual functioning, while Autistic Disorder referred to those with a combination of social impairment and intellectual impairment.

The current encyclopedia of mental disorders used by mental health professionals, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, removed Asperger Disorder, and lumped everyone under one umbrella category called Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was a rather inexplicable change, but it was made nonetheless.

The following are the criteria one must meet to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (it should be noted these must be present early in childhood for a diagnosis):

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and non-verbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
  4. Stereotyped of repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  5. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
  6. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
  7. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).


The primary treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is social skills training. This can be done individually, but is most effectively done in a group setting using behavioral reinforcement to reinforce various prosocial skills.

Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder may experience other difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenic-spectrum disorders. If so, they may benefit from psychotherapy focused on these issues as well as psychotropic medication treatment.


              For more information or to book an appointment, contact John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates at phone 309-692-7755 or visit us online at We have an office in Peoria at 3716 W. Brighton Ave., 114 N. Main St. in Eureka, and in Bloomington at 102 N. Main St.