Autism spectrum disorder(ASD) (which we refer to as autism) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves a wide range of problematic behaviors, including deficits in language and perceptual and motor developments; and impairments in social communication that are accompanied by extremely rigid patterns of behavior.
Autism or ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex neurological behavioral condition that affects social interaction, language, and communication skills involving rigid and repetitive behaviors. The word “spectrum” indicates the wide variation in the range and severity of how people are affected with Autism and the difficulties they face. Every Autistic child or adult is different from the other.
There is no single cause for Autism or the exact cause of autism is unknown. It might probably occur due to genetic reasons and environmental causes. Below are the few main considerable reasons/ risk factors for the occurrence of Autism.
- An immediate family member with Autism
- Genetic disorders and mutations
- Having “Fragile X syndrome”
- Metabolic imbalances
- Being born to older parents
- High stress during pregnancy
- Having low weight during birth
- Being exposed to heavy metals and toxins
- Immunological abnormalities
- History of viral infections during gestation period or for the newborn
Signs of Autism in Children
Children with autism show varying degrees of impairments and capabilities. A cardinal and typical sign is that a child seems apart from others even in the earliest stages of life. Mothers often remember such babies as not being cuddly, not reaching out when being picked up, not smiling or looking at them while being fed.
- Children with autism often do not show any need for affection or contact with others. They are often misunderstood as lacking emotional reactions, as children with autism do express their emotions. It is characterized by the inability of children with autism to attend to social cues. They also show a deficit in attention and in locating and orienting to sounds in their environment.
- Children with Autism do not effectively learn by imitation. This dysfunction may explain their characteristic absence or severely limited use of speech, or use of Echolalia- the parrot- like repetition of a few words.
- Self- stimulation is often a characteristic of children with autism. It usually takes the form of such repetitive movements as head banging, spinning and rocking which may continue by the hour.
- Many children with Autism have rigid routines and schedules and may form strong attachments to unusual objects such as keys, light switches, or rocks etc.
Signs and Symptoms to look for
Most of these signs and symptoms are identified and observed in children at an early age by Parents or caretakers. If you observe any related conditions more than half, the child can be referred for further diagnostic evaluation.
- Avoiding eye contact with others.
- Repeating certain behaviors like rocking back and forth, hand flapping or spinning.
- Having delayed or distorted speech
- Being unable to express or share his/her emotion
- Watching spinning objects with lot of interest
- Being insensitive or over sensitive to one or more of the senses like auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory and tactile.
- Feeling difficulty to interact with people around
- Having full energy the next day despite lack of sleep during the night
- Having abnormal interest in particular toys/ objects
- Sticking to a particular routine and resisting change
- Trying to convey with gesture or sound rather than having a conversation
- Repeating words to oneself termed as Echolalia
- Preferring to play and spend time with adults
- Not showing interest in people of his/her age
- Show special interest with specific things
- Difficulty in understanding social cues
Types of Autism
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – 5, the four previously classified conditions, Autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS, can be classified together as "Autism Spectrum Disorder." The term "spectrum" is used to describe a wide range of symptoms and severity levels. Each child with Autism has a varied level of severity and a different pattern of behavior.
- Asperger’s Syndrome: People with Asperger’s syndrome have milder symptoms of Autism. Though they have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests, they might not have intellectual and language difficulties.
- Autistic Disorder: People who have moderate levels of Autism can be considered as having Autistic disorder or classic Autism. They have social challenges, unusual behaviors and interests, and intellectual and language difficulties.
- PDD-NOS: PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Otherwise Not Specified, or "Atypical Autism," is used to describe people with severe degrees of Autism. They have social challenges, difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual behaviors and interests. They might have intellectual and language difficulties.