Autism Spectrum Disorder: Everything You Need to Know

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Everything You Need to Know

Developmental disorders may affect a person’s ability to move, think, speak, or understand the world around them. Unlike other conditions like a simple cold or a broken bone, developmental disabilities are usually progressive and long-term. When we refer to conditions as developmental, they are almost always present at birth. One example of a developmental disability is autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Research by the World Health Organization has shown that 1 out of 160 children worldwide has autism. Trends from recent years have also shown that the number of individuals born with autism continues to increase.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is a developmental disorder that mainly affects a person’s social communication and interaction. Autism Spectrum Disorder is not synonymous with Intellectual Disability. Although some individuals with ASD may have a problem with cognitive abilities, some of them do not. Some even have very high IQs!

The key word in this condition is “spectrum.” This means that autism symptoms can vary from one person to another. A person with autism may present different symptoms from another, just like how a spectrum branches out into several colors.

A person with autism will start to show symptoms usually by school age, when parents or teachers expect children to be more social. People with autism face many challenges as they grow older, but childhood interventions can provide them with skills they need in adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms

When Do Autism Signs and Symptoms Manifest?

Developmental milestones are skills or activities that a child should be able to do at a certain age. These milestones help parents detect whether or not their child might be suffering from some developmental concern like autism.

All parents should keep track of the developmental milestones especially during toddlerhood, as autism symptoms start to manifest at around 2-3 years old. Early management of autism is imperative in minimizing the disability that this condition may present in the years to come.

Symptoms of autism can vary from person to person and can be mild or severe. Some symptoms of autism can start to show in early childhood, while others symptoms might show later on in the child’s life.

What Are the Signs?

In some cases, children with autism may not show any symptoms until they reach school age. From here on out, behavioral patterns or mannerisms due to autism may be easier for parents or caregivers to spot. Some signs to look out for are the following:

  • A child not responding to their name or being called
  • The child not being able to make eye contact
  • A child not being able to speak properly or hold a conversation
  • Echolalia,” which is when a child repeats words or sentences they heard from caregivers, even if these words are out of context
  • A child having difficulty initiating or maintaining social interactions

It’s important to note that not all individuals with autism will show the symptoms mentioned above, which is why it’s important to consult your child’s physician regarding developmental disabilities before making any conclusions.

Causes and Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” includes different, related conditions under this term.

Despite the extensive research still being done in the field, experts and medical professionals are still unsure about the exact cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of autism.

Some risk factors associated with an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder are the following:

  1. When a child in the family has ASD, siblings are at greater risk.
  2. If an infant is born prematurely or born underweight.
  3. When a child has older parents.
  4. If a child has other existing medical conditions such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Autism Spectrum Disorder cannot be prevented because it is mainly brought about by genetics. However, complications from this condition, like difficulties in school or isolation, can be avoided by getting treatment and professional help as soon as possible.

Doctors may diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder in a child as early as two years old. Typically, your child’s pediatrician will monitor the changes in their weight, height, and other relevant developments during their first year. Any anomalies in your doctor’s check-ups together with first-hand observations will contribute to whether or not your child may need additional tests to confirm Autism Spectrum Disorder.

More in-depth tests for autism involve a comprehensive assessment of a child’s cognitive abilities, motor skills, daily activities, and etc.

Treatment options for Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  1. Medication: Although there is no medication for Autism Spectrum Disorder, doctors may prescribe medication for children who suffer from hyperactivity or extreme behavioral problems.
  2. Therapies: Thankfully, a variety of therapies are available for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder-related symptoms. A child with autism who struggles with motor skills can get communication therapy, while a child who struggles with learning can get education therapy, where a specially structured program can help. Family members can also benefit from family therapies so that they become more receptive and accepting of the needs of their family member with autism.

Key Takeaways

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can affect the way a person thinks, acts, feels, or interacts with others. Despite the fact that autism is a chronic condition, early diagnosis and interventions can prevent this disease from significantly impacting a person’s quality of life.

Learn more about Behavioral and Developmental Disorders here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Kip Soliva Updated Aug 20
Medically reviewed by Melissa Caraan, MD