Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves problems with social interactions, difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, and behavior that is repetitive and restricted.

Signs

Signs of autism become visible during the first two years of a child’s life.  It is believed that both genetics and the environment play a role in the development of autism.

What are the Symptoms of Autism?

Autism adversely affects the brain’s ability to process information by changing the way synapses and their nerve cells organize and connect.

Symptoms include:

Those dealing with autism tend to have problems learning and difficulty with motor coordination and attention as well as problems sleeping and gastrointestinal issues.  Those dealing with autism may not respond appropriately to smiles, waves, and frowns like other people and tend to have problems regulating their emotions.  Those with autism may lose control when they are faced with unusual or difficult situations and may also engage in self-destructive behavior.

Other symptoms include:

Other symptoms of autism include lack of empathy, inability to bond with children of a similar age, no interest in sharing enjoyment, achievements, or interests with others.  People with autism find it hard to understand the feelings of others involving sorrow and pain and tend to lack empathy.  Those dealing with autism have difficulty learning to speak and 40% never speak at all.  People with autism tend to have problems beginning conversations with others and tend to repeat phrases they have learned over and over again.  Those with autism have problems understanding when someone is trying to be humorous.

Autism Causes

Autism is an umbrella name for a spectrum of conditions characterized by problems with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, as well as by unique strengths and differences. Autism affects about one in 68 children. We know that to characterize autism as a single disorder is wrong. Instead, there are many different degrees of autism, caused by different combinations of environmental and genetic factors.

Experts are unsure as to the causes of autism, although they agree that the signs can appear as early as two and three years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays normally associated with autism can be identified and treated even earlier. Parents who are concerned about their children should seek an evaluation as soon as possible, since early intervention can improve outcomes.

How is Autism Treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to helping children with autism develop their true potential.

Treatments include:

Treatment may involve occupational, speech, and physical therapy.  While there is no medication designed to specifically treat autism, medication is generally prescribed for related conditions such as obsessive-compulsive behaviors, depression, hyperactivity, and anxiety.

Autism Prevention

There is considerable debate over whether autism can be prevented. There is, however, agreement that the chances of a child having autism can be reduced as soon as a woman discovers she is pregnant if she practices several safe pregnancy guidelines.

These include reducing your exposure to air pollution, avoiding toxic chemicals, ensuring the safety of medications (particularly antidepressants), keeping pregnancies spaced out from two to five years between, increase your folic acid intake, and take care of your overall health. It is important to remember that the current state of science has determined that autism is still little understood. As a result, the best preventive measure that a mother can take to minimize their child’s chances of having autism is to take care of themselves and not worry an undue amount about it.

Trust yourself and your judgment, and be good to yourself. If you do this, you can probably rest assured that you will have and raise a very healthy, normal child.

Autism
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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 14, 2017