Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)



Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects a person’s capacity to socialize and interact with others. People with ASD can include restricted repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. The word “spectrum” refers to the degree to which the symptoms, behaviors, and severity differ within and between individuals. Some people are slightly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance, an average of 1 in every 59 8-year-old children in the U.S. has ASD, with boys being four times more likely than girls to develop symptoms of ASD.



Symptoms


Symptoms of ASD often start to appear during the first three years of life for most people. Most children who develop autism often have difficulty engaging in everyday human interactions. Not everyone will experience symptoms with the same rigor, but most people with ASD will have signs that affect social interactions and relationships. ASD can also cause complications with verbal and nonverbal language and absorption with certain activities. Along with different interests, children with ASD generally have various ways of interacting with others. Parents are often the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviors, such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name, or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways.

Symptoms of autism can include impairments to social interaction & communication and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. More specific symptoms are described below:

  • Delay in language development, such as not responding to their own name or speaking only in single words, if at all.

  • Repetitive and routine behaviors, such as walking in a specific pattern or insisting on eating the same meal every day.

  • Difficulty making eye contact, such as focusing on a person’s mouth when that person is speaking instead of their eyes, as is usual in most young children.

  • Problems in expressing emotions, such as facial expressions, movements, tone of voice, and gestures that are often vague or do not match what is said or felt.

  • Fixation on parts of objects, often to the detriment of understanding the “whole” such as focusing on a rotating wheel instead of playing with peers.

  • A lack of social understanding makes interaction with peers challenging

  • Self-injurious behavior. Individuals with ASD will often appear to hurt themselves in response to certain activities or environments.

  • Sleep problems, such as falling asleep or staying asleep.

The learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to critically doubted. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives and with a careful evaluation, doctors can make a diagnosis to help find the best treatment plan.



Causes


Scientists have not discovered a single cause of autism, but they believe several factors may contribute to this developmental disorder, such as genetics and environmental factors. It is likely that if one child in a family has ASD, another sibling is more likely to develop it too. Moreover, identical twins are highly likely to both develop autism if it is present. Relatives of children with autism show minor signs of communication difficulties. As for environmental factors, there are many prenatal factors that may contribute to a child’s development, such as a mother’s health. Other postnatal factors may affect development as well.



Treatments

There is currently no standard treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however many people with ASD benefit from treatment, no matter how old they are when they are diagnosed. People of all ages, at all levels of ability, can often improve after well-designed mediations. Individuals with ASD have the best chance of using all of their abilities and skills if they receive appropriate therapies and interventions.

The most effective therapies often differ for each person, but most people with ASD respond best to highly structured and specialized programs. Research shows that early diagnosis, such as during preschool or before, are more likely to have major positive effects on symptoms and later skills.


Sources:

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Autism

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatments

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