Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:

Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people


Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors


Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life

Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD)

When to see a doctor

If your child shows signs of autism spectrum disorder, it is important to visit the doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist if needed and might even begin therapy for specific functional problems before a formal diagnosis is complete.

Studies show that early, individualized, and intensive treatment has the most positive impact on abilities of people with an ASD while also reducing symptoms in countless areas such as communication difficulties or repetitive behavior.

Causes

Developmental disabilities as a result of some form of brain damage that occur during the developmental stages, usually in childhood.

It is unclear what causes most cases of autism spectrum disorder. However, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing ASD including: Diseases or conditions associated with ASD.

Infections during pregnancy, such as rubella (german measles). In fact, if a woman contracts rubella in the first trimester of pregnancy , the child has a 90% chance of developing ASD.

Genetic factors play an important role in autism spectrum disorder.

Diagnosis and Tests

The cause or causes of autism spectrum disorder have not been identified, but research suggests that genetic and environmental factors may be involved. Several genes have been linked to autism, as well as environmental factors such as air pollutants. Because the number of children with ASD has increased in recent decades while at the same time genes haven’t mutated rapidly, environmental factors are more likely to be involved in the development of ASD.


Many studies have attempted to identify whether specific risk factors during pregnancy may increase the likelihood that a child will develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Evidence suggests that taking prenatal vitamins before conception and during early pregnancy reduces the chance that the fetus will develop ASD.

Treatments

There are many types of treatments available, and they can be categorized in a variety of ways.

The first category is behavior and communication approaches as these aim to change the way that someone behaves or communicates by working on them through various exercises like applied behavioral analysis, social skills training, occupational therapy (which could help with any physical problems), sensory integration therapy (to soothe different senses if there was some kind of traumatic event which caused pain) and assistive technology for those who cannot use their hands effectively such as computers.

There’s also dietary changes people might make because certain foods may not work well with other conditions but this would most likely require an expert opinion before you made adjustments to your diet even though it could have great benefits later down the road.

By visiting Path’s clinics, Doctors can advise on the latest research in which medications or complimentary medical treatments are showing promise.

Prevention

Parents have long wondered whether autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be prevented. Even before researchers realized that ASD was a neurodevelopmental condition affecting the brain, observers speculated about what might put children at risk for developing it. Some people believed that obstetric complications or prenatal infections caused ASD; others thought that environmental exposures such as pesticides were responsible. Today, researchers agree that ASD arises from a complex set of genetic and nongenetic risk factors. But even so, about 60 years since the condition was identified, scientists still don’t know what causes it or how to prevent it.

Support and resources

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has a website to help individuals with ASD who have communication challenges.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has resources to help caregivers and health professionals with the oral healthcare needs of individuals with ASD.

Clinical Trials.Gov lists federally funded clinical trials that are looking for participants. If you or someone you know would like to take part in an autism study, go to the website and search “autism.”

The Autism Treatment Network (ATN) seeks to create standards of medical treatment that will be made broadly available to physicians, researchers, parents, policymakers, and others who want to improve the care of individuals with autism. ATN is also developing a shared national medical database to record the results of treatments and studies at any of their five established regional treatment centers.

Symptoms

People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

According to the CDC, these may be symptoms of autism:

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)