What is Autism?


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. This is a disorder characterised by problems with communication and social interaction. ASD sufferers often show restricted, repetitive, and typical interests or patterns of behaviour.

Regardless of race, culture, or financial status, ASD is found in children and adults in the world. According to a research, autism does occur more commonly in boys than in girls. It is a warning that ASD cases are rising drastically. Some say that it can probably be due to environmental changes. It could be possible that the increase is because of awareness of the disorder or its diagnosis.

Symptoms of Autism

Between 12 and 24 months of age, the symptoms usually become evident that is during early childhood. Nevertheless, symptoms may also appear in early childhood or much later.

 

Generally, early symptoms may be delayed language social development, which is quite noticeable.

 

Researchers have categorized symptoms of autism into two basic types:

 

  • Difficulty in communication and social interaction
  • Restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour or actions

 

When you look into the difficulty in communication and social interaction in a broader perspective, it is more than what it says. These people have issues sharing problems, emotions, carrying on with a conversation for a long time, issues with non-verbal communication, like trouble keeping eye contact or interpreting body language. There are cases seen when an individual faces difficulty developing or even maintaining relationships.

 

The other type: restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour or actions comprise of repetitive movements, motions or speech patterns, they stick to inflexible routines or behaviours, they would be completely nonchalant as of no specific sensitivity towards their surrounding or information, this behaviour may rise or fall, for example, a specific sound may stimulate a negative reaction. Another common trait of the one who has ASD would is that they are obsessed with their interests.

 

Evaluation is done within each category and the intensity of the symptoms is marked. A person who displays all three symptoms in the first category and at least two symptoms in the second category has to undergo the process of diagnosis.

Causes of Autism

The researchers have been working to find out a single cause of ASD, yet they have not been able to figure out the exact cause of ASD.

 

Below are the suspected risk factors for autism:

 

  • Any immediate family member with autism
  • Genetic disorder
  • Born to older parents
  • Underweight at the time of birth
  • Imbalance in metabolism
  • Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
  • Affected by any sort of viral infection
  • A fetus exposed to valproic acid or thalidomide.

 

According to the research, both genetics and environment may determine whether a person develops autism. Some researches say that autism is not caused by any sort of vaccine

How is Autism Diagnosed?

There are several ways through which ASD is diagnosed, such as several different screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations.

 

Screening is one of the ways that can be helpful, it can be detected in children at an early age. Many have benefitted from early diagnosis. There are various tools used for screening in pediatric. The doctors can use them to help children who are at risk of having ASD. However, one cannot solely depend on this type of test. The test may detect a child positively but he doesn’t have the disorder. Moreover, screening does not always detect a child who has ASD. Therefore, the doctor may suggest your child a combination of tests for confirmation or detection of ASD. A few are:

 

  • DNA testing for genetic diseases
  • Behavioural evaluation
  • Visual and audio tests to rule out any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to autism
  • Occupational therapy screening
  • Developmental questionnaires, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

 

The team of specialists make this diagnosis, they are child psychologists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists.

Treating Autism

There is no treatment as such which can cure autism, however, therapies and other treatment can lessen the intensity and help the individual to deal with it in a much better way.

 

Several treatments methods include therapies such as:

 

  • Behavioural therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy

 

Some methods are used to induce relaxing effects, for instance, meditation techniques, massage and weight blankets and heavy clothing, etc. The results of the treatment may vary from person to person, such as some may respond well whereas others may not respond at all.

Importance of Autism Awareness

April is considered World Autism Month. It is important for autism awareness that one should have empathy; should understand that ASDs are different and should be cared for, for it. Understanding autism and the people who have ASD is mainly part of the awareness. One should keep this in mind that autism is complex; its treatment may take time and it requires a lot of patience. The best program may be chosen to suit the type of ASD one is suffering from.

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