Autism Spectrum Disorder – Symptoms and Causes

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complex condition characterized by communication and behavioral issues. It can include a wide variety of symptoms and abilities. ASD can be a minor issue or a disability requiring full-time care in a specialized facility.

Autistic people have difficulty communicating. They have difficulty understanding what other people are thinking and feeling. This makes it difficult for them to express themselves verbally or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.

Autistic people may struggle with learning. Their abilities may develop unevenly. For example, they may struggle to communicate but excel at art, music, math, or memory. As a result, they may perform particularly well on analytical or problem-solving tests.

Autism is now being diagnosed in more children than ever before. However, the most recent figures could be higher due to changes in how the disorder is diagnosed, not because more children have it.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

What Are The Signs of Autism?

ASD symptoms typically emerge between the ages of 12 and 24 months in early childhood. However, symptoms can appear sooner or later.

Early signs may include a significant delay in language or social development.

The DSM-5 divides symptoms of ASD into two categories:

  • problems with communication and social interaction
  • restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities

Autism is diagnosed when a person exhibits symptoms from both of these categories.

Common symptoms of autism include:

  • Absence of eye contact
  • A narrow range of interests or a strong interest in a few topics
  • Repeating something, such as repeating words or phrases, rocking back and forth, or flipping a lever
  • High sensitivity to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that appear normal to others
  • avoiding looking at or listening to others
  • Not looking at things when they are pointed out to you
  • refusing to be held or cuddled
  • Speech, gestures, facial expressions, or tone of voice comprehension or use issues
  • Speaking in a sing-song, flat, or robotic tone of voice
  • Having difficulty adapting to changes in routine

Seizures can occur in some autistic children. These may not appear until adolescence.

What Are the Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

These were once thought to be distinct conditions. They now fall into the category of autism spectrum disorders, which includes:

Asperger’s disorder. These children do not struggle with language; in fact, intelligence tests show that they are in the average or above-average range. They do, however, have social issues and a limited range of interests.

Autistic disorder. This is what most people envision when they hear the term “autism.” It refers to issues with social interactions, communication, and play in children under the age of three.

Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children develop normally for at least two years before losing some or all of their communication and social skills.

Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or atypical autism). If your child exhibits some autistic behavior, such as delays in social and communication skills, but does not fit into another category, your doctor may use this term.

What Causes Autism?

ASD’s exact cause is unknown. The most recent research shows that there is no single cause.

Some suspected risk factors for ASD include:

  • having an immediate family member who’s autistic
  • specific genetic mutations
  • Other genetic disorders such as fragile X syndrome
  • being the child of older parents
  • birth weight underweight
  • imbalances in metabolism
  • heavy metal and environmental toxin exposure
  • a history of viral infections in the mother
  • Medication exposure during pregnancy valproate or thalidomide (Thalomid)

However, multiple sources, old and new, have concluded that vaccines do not cause ASD.

How to Diagnose Autism?

It can be difficult to obtain a definitive diagnosis of autism. Your doctor’s attention will be drawn to behavior and development.

Diagnosis for children usually involves two steps.

  • A developmental screening will tell your doctor if your child is developing basic skills such as learning, speaking, behavior, and movement. Experts recommend that children be screened for these developmental delays at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months of age. At their 18-month and 24-month checkups, children are routinely tested for autism.
  • If your child shows signs of a problem during these screenings, they will require a more thorough evaluation. Hearing and vision tests, as well as genetic tests, may be included. Your doctor may refer you to a developmental pediatrician or a child psychologist who specializes in autism disorders. Some psychologists can also administer the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule test (ADOS).

If you were not diagnosed with autism as a child but are noticing signs or symptoms, consult your doctor.

What Resources Are There for Autistic People?

There are no “treatments” for ASD. Rather, supportive therapies and other considerations can help some autistic people feel better or alleviate certain symptoms.

Many approaches include therapies like:

  • behavioral therapy
  • play therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy

Massages, weighted clothing and blankets, and meditation techniques may also aid in the management of symptoms in some autistic people. However, the outcomes will vary. Certain approaches may work well for some people while not for others.

Alternative remedies

Alternative remedies research is mixed, and some remedies can be dangerous. Alternative treatments include the following:

  • high-dose vitamins
  • chelation therapy, which involves flushing metals from the body
  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • melatonin to address sleep issues

Parents and caregivers should weigh the research and financial costs against any potential benefits before investing in any alternative therapy.

Be Careful About Changing Your Child’s Diet

There is no special diet for autistic people. Nonetheless, some autism advocates are looking into dietary changes to help reduce behavioral issues and improve the overall quality of life.

The avoidance of artificial additives is a cornerstone of the autism diet. These are some examples:

  • preservatives
  • colors
  • sweeteners

An autism diet may instead focus on whole foods, such as:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • lean poultry
  • fish
  • unsaturated fats
  • lots of water

Some autism advocates also endorse a gluten-free diet. The protein gluten is found in:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • other grains

The important thing is that your child’s diet supports their specific nutritional needs as well as their ASD symptoms. Working with your doctor and a nutrition specialist such as a registered dietitian is the best way to determine the most beneficial diet. They will assist you in developing a meal plan specifically for your child.

Some autistic children experience digestive issues such as constipation, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Your doctor can recommend a diet that will not aggravate the symptoms.

What Are The Signs of Autism in Children?

Autism symptoms in young children include:

  • refusing to respond to their name
  • avoiding direct eye contact
  • when you smile at them, they do not smile back
  • becoming enraged if they do not like a particular taste, smell, or sound
  • flapping their hands, flicking their fingers, or rocking their bodies are examples of repetitive movements.
  • not talking as much as other children
  • repetition of phrases

What Are The Signs of Autism in Adults?

Autism symptoms in adults commonly include:

  • having difficulty understanding what others are thinking or feeling
  • becoming extremely concerned about social situations
  • finding it difficult to make friends or preferring to be alone
  • without meaning to appear blunt, rude, or uninterested in others
  • finding it difficult to express yourself
  • You may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg” if you take things literally.
  • having the same daily routine and becoming extremely anxious if it changes

Autism and Exercise

Certain exercises may help autistic children relieve frustration and promote overall well-being.

Any type of physical activity that your child enjoys can be beneficial. Walking or simply having fun on the playground are both excellent options.

Swimming and other in-water activities can be used for both exercise and sensory play. Sensory play activities can benefit autistic people who have difficulty processing sensory signals.

Contact sports can be challenging for autistic children at times. Instead, promote other types of challenging yet strengthening exercises.

What is the Significance of Autism Awareness?

The 2nd of April is World Autism Awareness Day. In the United States, April is also known as Autism Awareness Month. However, many community advocates have rightly emphasized the importance of raising awareness about ASD all year, not just during 30 days.

Instead, the Autism Society of America and other advocates have proposed making April Autism Acceptance Month.

Autism acceptance necessitates empathy and an understanding that ASD is unique to each individual.

Certain therapies and approaches may be effective for some people but not for others. Parents and caregivers may also disagree on the best way to advocate for an autistic child.

How is Autism Different from ADHD?

Autism and ADHD are frequently misunderstood.

Children with ADHD frequently struggle with fidgeting, concentrating, and maintaining eye contact with others. Some autistic people exhibit these symptoms as well.

ADHD is not considered a spectrum disorder, despite some similarities. One significant distinction between the two is that people with ADHD do not typically lack socio-communicative skills.

If you suspect your child is hyperactive, consult with their doctor about ADHD testing. Obtaining a clear diagnosis is critical to ensuring that your child receives the appropriate care.

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