What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs process information in their brain differently than other people.
Spectrum disorders affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe. People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction, but there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are and the nature of the symptoms.
What causes Autism?
According to the Autism Speaks website, there is no known single cause, although the best available science points to important genetic components. “In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of non-genetic, or “environmental,” stresses appear to further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.”
How common is Autism?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum. It has dramatically increased in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Also, Autism is more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the U. S.
How do I know if my child has Autism?
ASDs begin before the age of three and last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age, and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had. Parents should look for the following symptoms:
- not respond to their name by 12 months.
- not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months.
- not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months.
- avoid eye contact and want to be alone.
- have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings.
- have delayed speech and language skills.
- repeat words or phrases over and over.
- give unrelated answers to questions.
- get upset by minor changes.
- have obsessive interests.
- flap their hands, rock their body or spin in circles.
- have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel.
What are treatment options for Autism?
Research shows that the earlier the treatment, the better. As soon as a child is diagnosed with Autism, he or she should begin early intervention. Programs that are effective focus on developing social, communication, and cognitive skills. The best treatments available today for children with Autism are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational, speech, and physical therapy.