What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently than other people. You can find more information below.

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder is a brain development-related condition that causes problems in a person’s communication, interaction, and socialization with others. This condition also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to a wide variety of symptoms.

Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions that were previously considered separate. The most well-known of these is Asperger’s syndrome, which is thought to be at the mild end of the autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorder begins in early childhood and eventually causes problems in society – for example, socially, at school, and at work. Often children show signs of autism within the first year. A small number of children seem to develop normally during the first year and then at 18 to 24 months when they develop autism symptoms.

While there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, early intervention can make a big difference in the lives of many children.

What causes autism spectrum disorder?

There is no single known cause of autism spectrum disorder. Given the complexity of the disease and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, it likely has many causes. Both genetics and environment can play a role.

  • Genetics: Several different genes seem to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder may be associated with genetic disorders such as Rett syndrome or Fragile X syndrome . For other children, other genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of autism. Other genes not linked to these diseases may also affect brain development or the way brain cells communicate, or determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations appear to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.
  • Environmental factors: Researchers are currently investigating whether factors such as viral infections, medications, complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.

Vaccines and autism

One of the biggest debates in autism spectrum disorder focuses on whether there is a link between the disorder and childhood vaccinations. Despite extensive research, no reliable studies have shown a link between autism and any vaccine. In fact, the original work that sparked controversy years ago was retracted due to poor design and questionable research methods.

Avoiding childhood vaccinations can put a child and others at risk of contracting and spreading serious diseases such as whooping cough, measles or mumps.

Who is at risk?

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is increasing. It is not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting over time, or the actual increase in the number of cases, or both.

Autism spectrum disorder affects children of all races and nationalities, but certain factors increase the risk. Risk factors include:

  • Gender of the child: Boys are about four times more likely to develop autism than girls.
  • Hereditary predisposition: Families with a child with autism have a higher risk of having another child with the disorder. It’s also not uncommon for parents or relatives of a child with autism to have minor problems with social or communication skills or engage in certain behaviors specific to the disorder.
  • Other disorders: Children with certain medical conditions have a higher-than-normal risk of developing autism-like symptoms. Examples include Fragile X syndrome, an inherited disorder that causes intellectual problems, tuberous sclerosis, a condition in which benign tumors develop in the brain, and Rett, a genetic condition that occurs almost exclusively in girls and causes slowed head growth, intellectual disability, and loss of purposeful hand use. has the syndrome.
  • Premature babies: Babies born before 26 weeks of gestation may have a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder.
  • Ages of parents: There may be a link between children born to older parents and autism, but more research is needed to establish this link.
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What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?

Some children show signs of autism in early infancy, such as decreased eye contact, unresponsiveness to names, or indifference to caregivers. Other children may develop normally in the first few months or years of their lives, but then suddenly become withdrawn, aggressive, or lose language skills they’ve already acquired. Signs are usually visible by age 2.

Each autistic child is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior and level of violence, from low to high.

Some children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty learning, and some have signs of lower than normal intelligence. Other children with the disorder have higher-than-normal intelligence – they learn quickly, but have difficulty communicating and applying what they know in everyday life and adapting to social situations.

Because of the unique mix of symptoms in each child, severity can sometimes be difficult to determine. This often depends on the level of the disorders and how they affect the ability to function.

Below are some common signs displayed by people with autism spectrum disorder.

Social communication and interaction

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of the following symptoms:

  • He may not respond to your name and may not hear you.
  • May avoid hugs, prefer solitude and play alone.
  • He may not be able to speak or may lose his previously learned ability to speak.
  • They may have trouble starting a conversation or not go with the flow of the conversation.
  • May speak in an abnormal tone or rhythm.
  • Can repeat words or phrases word for word.
  • He may not seem to understand simple questions or instructions.
  • May not express feelings or emotions and may be unaware of the feelings of others.
  • He may not share his interests in any way.
  • May engage in inappropriate social interaction as passive, aggressive, or destructive.
  • May have difficulty recognizing other nonverbal cues such as interpreting facial expressions, body postures, or tone of voice.

Behavior patterns

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities, including any of the following symptoms:

  • May perform repetitive movements such as rocking, turning, or clapping.
  • May engage in self-harming activities such as biting or head banging.
  • He may develop certain routines or rituals and become uncomfortable at the slightest change.
  • They may have coordination problems, awkward movement patterns such as clumsiness or walking on their toes, and strange, harsh, or exaggerated body language.
  • It can be influenced by the details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car.
  • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound, or touch.
  • May engage in activity with abnormal intensity or focus.
  • They may eat only a few foods or have a preference for foods with a certain texture, such as refusing them.

Some children with autism spectrum disorder may become more involved with others and less disturbed in behavior as they mature. Some, usually those with the least serious problems, are eventually able to lead normal or near-normal lives. But others may continue to have difficulties with language or social skills and have worse behavioral and emotional problems during their teenage years.

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When should you see a doctor?

Babies develop at their own pace, and most parents don’t follow the exact timelines found in some parenting books. But children with autism spectrum disorder often show some signs of delayed development before age 2.

If there are concerns about the child’s development or it is suspected that the child may be autistic, concerns should be shared with a doctor. Symptoms associated with the disorder may also be linked to other developmental disorders.

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder often appear early in development when there are obvious delays in language skills and social interactions. He or she may recommend developmental tests to determine if a child has delays in cognitive, language, and social skills if:

  • Doesn’t respond with a smile or a happy expression by 6 months
  • Does not imitate sounds or facial expressions by 9 months
  • not babbling or vomiting by 12 months
  • Doesn’t show gestures such as pointing or waving by 14 months
  • Doesn’t say a word by 16 months
  • Does not pretend or pretend by 18 months
  • Says only a few phrases by 24 months
  • Losing language or social skills

How is autism spectrum disorder diagnosed?

The child’s doctor will look for signs of developmental delays at regular checkups. If the child shows any signs of autism, evaluation may likely require a child psychiatrist and a specialist who treats children with autism spectrum disorders, such as a psychologist, pediatric neurologist, or developmental pediatrician.

Autism can be difficult to diagnose because it varies greatly in symptoms and severity. There is no specific medical test to identify the disorder. Instead, a specialist can:

  • He or she may ask parents to observe how the child’s social interactions, communication skills, and behaviors develop and change over time.
  • He/she can apply tests covering hearing, speech, language, developmental level and social and behavioral problems to the child.
  • Can offer the child structured social and communication interactions and score performance.
  • Can use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. ( For DSM-5 diagnostic criteria , you can review the relevant page ).
  • He or she may meet with other specialists to determine the diagnosis.
  • He or she may recommend genetic testing to determine if the child has a genetic disorder such as Rett syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.

How is autism spectrum disorder treated?

There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The goal of treatment is to maximize the child’s ability to function by reducing autism symptoms and supporting development and learning. Early intervention during the preschool years can help a child learn critical social, communication, functional and behavioral skills.

Home and school-based treatments and interventions for autism spectrum disorder are extensive, and a child’s needs may change over time. The healthcare professional can suggest options and help the family identify resources in the area.

If a child is diagnosed with autism, experts can be talked to about creating a treatment strategy and a team of professionals can be formed to meet the child’s needs.

Treatment options

Treatment options may include:

  • Behavioral and communication therapies: Many programs address the social, language, and behavioral challenges associated with autism spectrum disorder. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Other programs focus on teaching children how to behave in social situations or how to communicate better with others. Applied behavior analysis can help children learn new skills and generalize those skills to multiple situations through a reward-based motivation system.
  • Educational therapies: Children with autism generally respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs typically require a team of experts. Educational therapies include a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication, and behavior. Preschoolers who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often make good progress.
  • Family therapies: Parents and other family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that develop social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
  • Other treatments: Depending on the child’s needs, speech therapy to improve communication skills, occupational therapy to teach activities of daily living, and physical therapy to improve movement and balance may be helpful. A psychologist can suggest ways to address problem behaviors.
  • Medications: No medication can improve the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, but certain medications can help control symptoms. For example, certain medications may be given if the child is hyperactive. Antipsychotic medications are sometimes used to treat serious behavior problems, and antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety.
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Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

Managing other medical and mental health conditions

Children, teenagers, and adults with autism spectrum disorder may experience:

  • Medical health issues: Children with autism spectrum disorder may have medical issues such as epilepsy, sleep disturbances, limited food preferences, or stomach problems. The child’s doctor may be asked how they can best manage these conditions together.
  • Problems with transitioning into adulthood: Teens and young adults with autism may have trouble understanding body changes. Also, during adolescence, social situations may become increasingly complex and there may be less tolerance for individual differences. Behavior problems can be difficult during the teenage years.
  • Other mental health disorders: Teens and adults with autism often experience other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

planning for the future

Children with autism spectrum disorder typically continue to learn and compensate for problems throughout their lives, but most will continue to require some level of support. Planning for a child’s future life, such as services needed for employment, college, living situation, independence and support, can make this process more seamless.

Alternative medicine

Because autism spectrum disorder cannot be cured, many parents seek alternative or complementary treatments, but there is little or no research showing that these treatments are effective. Involuntarily negative behaviors can be reinforced, and some alternative treatments are potentially dangerous.

The scientific evidence of any therapy being considered for the child should always be discussed with the doctor.

Examples of complementary and alternative therapies that may provide some benefit when used in conjunction with evidence-based treatments include:

  • Creative therapies: Some parents choose to supplement educational and medical intervention with art therapy or music therapy that focuses on reducing a child’s sensitivity to touch or sound. These therapies may provide some benefit when used in conjunction with other treatments.
  • Sensory-based therapies: Therapists use brushes, squeeze toys, trampolines, and other materials to stimulate certain senses. Research has not shown these treatments to be effective, but they may provide some benefit when used in combination with other treatments.
  • Massage: While massage is relaxing, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether it improves the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
  • Pet therapy: Pets can provide companionship and entertainment, but more research is needed to determine whether interacting with animals improves symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Some complementary and alternative therapies may not be harmful, but there is no evidence that they are helpful. Some may also involve significant financial costs and be difficult to implement.

Autism spectrum disorder complications

Autism can lead to problems with social interactions, communication, and behavior such as:

  • Problems at school and with successful learning
  • Employment issues
  • inability to live independently
  • Social Isolation
  • stress in the family
  • victimization and bullying

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