What is Autism?
Autism or Autism spectrum disorder, ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes behavioral and communication problems. People who suffer from ASD are unable to express themselves and have trouble understanding how people feel. Since the development is not proper, they may have trouble learning the normal way. But they have exceptional ability in math, art, music, and problem-solving. Usually, an autism diagnosis is done in childhood. Earlier, the types of autism were diagnosed based on the intensity of symptoms. But in 2013, all the types were merged into a single diagnosis called ASD.
The symptoms of autism become evident within the first 2 years of a child. It can also appear earlier or later too. The symptoms of ASD are broadly classified into two categories:
Problems with communication:
- Finding it difficult to share emotions, even small conversations or sharing interests.
- Problems with nonverbal communication like trouble reading body language or maintaining eye contact.
Repetitive behavioral pattern or restricted behavior
- Movements, motion or speech is repetitive
- Is rigid about routines
- Is preoccupied and has fixed interests
- Is either highly sensitive or insensitive to negative reaction or other sensory information.
A schizophrenia doctor will evaluate the signs and should satisfy most of the symptoms in each category.
Who is at Risk?
There are different autism risk factors that make it more likely for a child to have ASD which includes genetic, biological, and environmental.
- People with a mutated gene is considered one of the greatest risks for developing ASD.
- A child with a sibling having ASD is likely to have ASD.
- People who have chromosomal conditions like tuberous sclerosis or fragile X syndrome have a high likelihood of this condition.
- Pregnant women who take certain prescription drugs can lead to the kid developing ASD.
- Children born to older parents are at risk of ASD.
- Kids born prematurely or immediately after an older sibling is at a risk.
- Kids born to mother with diabetes has a chance of ASD.
The exact reasons for autism are still unknown and also there is no single cause identified as the reason as per current research. Some of the causes that are identified are:
- Genetic mutations of many genes and not just a single one.
- An immediate family member having autism can lead to this condition.
- Having genetic disorders like fragile X syndrome can also cause ASD.
- Certain metabolic imbalances and oxidative stress
- Low birth weight and pregnancy complications including viral infections.
- Birth to older parents
- Exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals.
- Exposure of the fetus to certain drugs
How is Autism Diagnosed?
Autism diagnosis involves several tests and evaluations. If suspected of ASD, a team of specialists including speech and occupational therapists apart from a neurologist and psychologist has to be consulted.
- Developmental screenings: Screening for autism in the early part of childhood helps in identification and also intervention. A screening tool with a set of questions will be filled out by parents. A pediatrician will identify if there are any risks.
- DNA testing for genetic diseases is performed
- Audio and video tests are performed to rule out issues not related to autism.
- A behavioral evaluation is done followed by occupational therapy screening.
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale test is done to learn if the behavior is within norms.
How is Autism Treated?
A person with autism has different needs and hence the autism treatment plan has to be personalized. The aim is to help in navigating daily life easily and not autism cure as there is no cure. Treatment options include:
- Physical therapy to help in improving gross motor skills.
- Occupational therapy that emphasizes social skills and sensory skills.
- Speech therapy if the person has difficulty even in basic communication.
- A medicine for autism is given to relieve depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues in kids.
- Developmental therapies that help to build the child’s interest, strengths, and intellectual skills.
If you suspect that your child has symptoms of this condition, our autism doctor at Cure. Fit, will perform a diagnosis. They will also build a treatment plan that can help manage ASD.
How can Autism be Prevented?
The exact reason for autism is not yet known but genes play a major role. In some cases, pregnant women exposed to chemicals can also lead to birth defects. Though prevention of autism is not possible, the odds of having a healthy child increases when:
- A pregnant woman eats healthy, takes the recommended supplements, exercises, and has regular checkups.
- An expectant woman stays away from drugs including anti-seizure drugs.
- Treat any preexisting medical conditions
- Get vaccinations to prevent rubella associated autism.