The criteria for a diagnosis of autism, according to the DSM-IV, is based on three core symptoms: a qualitative impairment in communication, a qualitative impairment in social interaction and the use of restricted, repetitive and stereotypic behaviours, routines and interests.
Treatment modalities for autism have focused on these three symptoms since autism was first described in the nineteen forties with little improvement in the condition of those on the spectrum. Why? Because we are focusing on symptoms, not the cause of these symptoms. It's kind of like focusing on the red spots on the skin when we have measles. Finding a salve that will take away or cover up the red spots does little for the treatment of measles. Looking beyond the symptoms is necessary for clear understanding of any medical or biological condition including autism.
Very little of my effort is concentrated on these three symptoms. However, they are used to measure the effectiveness of anything we do. An increase in communication and social interaction combined with a decrease in the need to use protective behaviors is an indication that we are on the right track but that doesn't mean it's where we focus our energy. It's the way we measure our results.
In the meantime, this section of the site looks how we need to understand these three symptoms and how to work with them in a way that does not increase the level of anxiety.