Autism is a complex brain disorder resulting in social, behavioral and language problems. People with autism have difficulty communicating and forming relationships. They may be preoccupied, engage in repetitive behaviors, and exhibit marked inflexibility. Autism occurs in about 1/1000 children.
Autism first appears in children age three and younger. The severity of symptoms varies. Behaviors and abilities may differ from day to day. Symptoms may decrease as the child grows older. Children with autism may exhibit a combination of abnormal behaviors. Symptoms include avoiding social contact; loss of language; using words incorrectly or changing the meaning of a common word; gesturing frequently; avoiding eye contact; lack of interest in normal activities for that age; spending a lot of time alone ; not reacting to smiles in the manner expected. Some people with autism suffer from other disorders as well, including: Seizures, Mental retardation, Genetic disorders, such as fragile X syndrome
Some people with autism have unusual abilities. For instance, they may memorize things or be able to play a musical instrument without lessons. Children with autism may show varying signs of cognitive impairment, but have normal intelligence. According to the Autism Information Center, children with autism may be very good at putting puzzles together or solving problems, but instead have trouble in other areas like talking or making friends. Autism, a group of developmental disabilities caused by abnormality in the brain, is a highly individualized disorder.
Problems in brain development cause autism. Scientists are searching for answers about what causes these development problems. Studies suggest:
- Genes play a role. Autism seems to run in some families. Several genes may be involved.
- Problems during pregnancy or delivery may interfere with normal brain development.
- Something in the environment that a child is exposed to may be a factor.
Specialists in autism will observe the child's behavior, social contacts, and communication abilities. They will assess mental and social development and ask parents about the child's behavior. Some doctors ask parents to bring in videotapes of the child at home.
Tests may include:
- Psychological tests
- Questionnaires and observation schedules
- IQ tests
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
There is no cure for autism. The severity of symptoms may decrease over the years, but the condition lasts for life. Children with autism and their families benefit from early intervention. Children with autism respond well to a structured, predictable schedule. With help, many children with autism learn to cope with their disabilities. Most need assistance and support throughout their lives. Others are able to work and live independently when they grow up.
Interventions to help children with autism include:
- Special Education
Programs designed to meet the child's special needs improve the odds of learning. Children with autism may have trouble with assignments, concentration, and anxiety. Teachers who understand the condition can build on the child's unique abilities. Programs should incorporate the child's interests..
- Therapy Services
Speech, physical, and occupational therapies may improve speech and activities. Children with autism need help developing social skills.
- Family Services
Professional support helps a family cope with caring for a child with autism. Counselors help parents learn how to manage behaviors. Furthermore, caring for a child with autism can be exhausting and frustrating. Arranging occasional respite care is essential, so that the main caregiver can have some breaks.
Although there are no drugs to treat autism, several drugs are used to help manage symptoms. For example, drugs prescribed for anxiety and depression can help tone down obsessive and aggressive behaviors.
There are no guidelines for preventing autism because the cause is unknown. Scientists are searching for ways to prevent autism.
Children having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience sensory problems, seizures, mental health disorders, or other complications.- Sensory problems
They may be very sensitive to sensory input. Something as common as loud noises or bright lights may cause them significant emotional discomfort. Alternatively, they may not respond at all to some sensations, such as extreme heat, cold, or pain.- Seizures
Seizures are common among children with ASD. They often begin in childhood or your teenage years.- Mental health issues
Many people with ASD have some level of mental impairment. Children with fragile X syndrome are more likely to develop ASD. This syndrome is caused by a defect on a section of the X chromosome. It’s a common cause of mental impairment, particularly among boys.- Other complications Other problems that can accompany ASD include aggression, unusual sleep habits, unusual eating habits, and digestive issues.
Risk factors for autism include the following:
- Sex: male (boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls)
- Family history: siblings of a child with autism have a 3-7% chance of being autistic
- A number of other conditions are associated with autism, although the relationship between them is not clear: epilepsy, problems during pregnancy or delivery, contracting rubella during pregnancy