What Is Autism?
Autism, also known as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition in which sufferers have problems with behavior and communication. Autism has a wide range of symptoms; it can be a minor problem or one that involves special care. Autism patients usually have a problem communicating. They also find it difficult to understand what people think or feel. What`s more? They also have problems expressing themselves through gestures, facial expressions, and touch. Some might also have problems with learning, as their skills might develop irregularly. Amazingly, some are strangely good at math, art, music, or memory retention. As a result, they perform excellently at tests of analysis and problem-solving.
Today, more children are diagnosed with autism now than ever before. It is also found in individuals around the world, regardless of age, race, culture, or economic background.
Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Asperger’s syndrome is on the mild level of the spectrum. Individuals in this category don’t have trouble with intellectual understanding and are considered high functioning with normal to above-average intelligence, however, they can show signs such as trouble reading and understanding facial expressions and body language. They may also have poor handwriting, repetitive behaviors, difficulty socializing, among others.
This type of disorder is also known as classic autism. People with this type of disorder usually have language delays, social and economic challenges, as well as unusual behaviors and interests. In general, they have an intellectual disorder. This type of autism is common among children younger than 3 years.
Persuasive Development Disorder (PDD-NOS)
Persuasive Development Disorder, also called atypical autism, is on the mild to the middle part of the spectrum. This is characterized by autistic behaviors such as delays in social and communications skills, uncommon response to taste, sound, smell, sight, or touch, as well as poorly developed speech.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Children who suffer the childhood disintegrative disorder fall on the severe end of the
spectrum. These children have typical development for at least 2 years and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills. They also cannot control their bowel and bladder.
Causes of Autism
The main cause of ASD is unknown. Recent research has shown that there is no single cause of this disorder, however, there are some risk factors. Let`s take a look.
- Family history of autism
- When parts of the brain that interpret sensory input and process language are affected
- Genetic mutations
- A genetic disorder like fragile X syndrome
- An inherited disorder that causes intellectual problems such as tuberous and sclerosis
- Children born to elderly parents
- Low birth weight
- Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
- A history of viral infections
- Taking harmful drugs during pregnancy and exposure to medications like valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)
Symptoms of Autism
The symptoms of autism usually appear before a child turns three. They could also manifest later. Here are some of the symptoms of autism.
- Lack of eye contact
- Breathing abnormalities
- A narrow range of interests or intense interest in certain topics
- Doing something over and over, like repeating words or phrases, rocking back and
forth, or flipping a lever
- Uncommon responses to taste, sight, and sound. They usually have a high sensitivity to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to other people
- Not listening to other people
- Spitting and drooling
- Sleep disturbances
- Not looking at objects when other people point at them
- Not wanting to be held or cuddled and preferring to play alone
- Inability to begin or sustain a conversation
- Failure to respond to their names
- Difficulty using gestures, facial expressions,
or tone of voice
- Talking in a sing-song, flat, or robotic voice
- Trouble adapting to changes in routine
Diagnosis for Autism
Diagnosing Autism spectrum disorder involves various screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations. If a child shows or has any of the symptoms of autism, it is important to take them to a pediatrician or primary care physician who can refer you to a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, child psychologist or psychiatrist, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), all children undergo screening for ASD at the ages of 18 and 24 months. Screening can help with the early identification of children who could have ASD. It is important to note, however, that screening is not a diagnosis, as some children who screen positively for ASD don’t necessarily have the disorder. Furthermore, screenings sometimes don’t detect every child that has ASD. There are some other screenings and tests that can be conducted to detect if the child has the disorder. Some of these other screenings and tests are:
- DNA testing for genetic diseases
- Behavioral evaluation
- Using visual and audio tests to mark out any problems with vision and hearing that aren’t related to autism
- Occupational therapy screening
- Using developmental questionnaires, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation
Treatment for Autism
There is currently no treatment for ASD, however, there are several interventions that
have been developed and studied for use with young children. Some of these are:
- Behavioral and communication therapy
- Play therapy
- Occupational therapy which teaches the individual skills that will help them live
independently. Some of these skills include eating, bathing, dressing, and
communicating with people.
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy helps to improve the individual’s communication skills
Alternative Treatments for Autism
Alternative treatments for managing autism may include:
- High-dose vitamins
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Melatonin to address sleep issues
- Chelation therapy involves flushing metals from the body
Diet for Autism Patients
There’s no precise diet planned for people with ASD, however, there are dietary changes that they can explore to help minimize behavioral issues and increase the general quality of life. The avoidance of artificial additives is the foundation of the autism diet. These additives include preservatives, colors, and sweeteners.
An autistic patient should focus on a whole food diet such as:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lean poultry
- Unsaturated fats
- Lots of water
Some autism advocates also approve of a gluten-free diet. The protein, gluten, is found in wheat, barley, and other grains. Those advocates believe that gluten creates inflammation and adverse bodily reactions in certain people with ASD.
Autism Facts you Should Know
- Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 68 children.
- Boys are about 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ASD.
- Autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common developmental disorders in the United States.
- ASD is more common than diabetes, AIDS, and childhood cancer combined.
- The earlier autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better, as children’s lives are significantly improved with early diagnosis and treatment.
- Contrary to popular opinion, parents cannot cause autism spectrum disorder.
- Although individuals with autism spectrum disorder have communication deficits, it is crucial to distinguish between autism and social communication deficits.
Now that you Know…
Autism is a condition that involves a problem with behavior and communication and there are no cures for it. The most effective treatment for it is an early and thorough behavioral intervention that can help improve behavior, skills, and language development. Although a child or an individual can outgrow the symptoms of ASD, they can function properly with the right approach and care.