Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that usually appears in the first two years of a child’s life. It affects communication, learning, and behavior. ASD often results in difficulty interacting with other people, repetitive actions, and restricted interests, and affects a person’s ability to function in school, work, social situations, and life activities.

Where does Autism Spectrum disorder come from?

There are no clear primary causes for ASD, but studies suggest that genes and environment interact to impact a child’s development in ways that result in ASD.

Potential risk factors include:

  • Siblings with ASD
  • Older parents
  • Specific genetic conditions, such as Down Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome
  • Low birth weight

What Autism Spectrum disorder symptoms do I look for?

There are three basic categories of behaviors you could look for – delays in social communication, restrictive and repetitive behavior, and a more general group of physical symptoms. If you think your child may have ASD, work with a healthcare professional who knows the topic well and can work directly with you and your child. Until then, here are some examples of behaviors we’d include in each category.

Delays in social communication:

  • Little or inconsistent eye contact
  • Doesn’t share with others their interest, emotion, or enjoyment of objects and activities
  • Doesn’t respond to their name or requests for their attention
  • Little or no reciprocal conversation with others
  • Excessively talks about favorite topics only
  • Mismatch between their facial expression and movements
  • Lacks empathy, the ability to understand another’s point of view
  • Difficulty making friends

Restrictive and repetitive behavior:

  • Repeats words and phrases
  • Has intense interest in specific topics and no interest in other topics
  • Focuses interest on moving objects or parts of objects
  • Becomes upset by changes in their routine and has problems with transitions between activities
  • Is more or less sensitive to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, temperature, clothing, and wearing bandages than others their age

Other potential signs of ASD:

  • Irregular or disrupted sleep
  • Frequent gastrointestinal issues
  • Walking on toes and irregular gait

How is Autism Spectrum disorder treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders are critical. Proper care and treatment can reduce many of the behavioral difficulties associated with ASD and help your child build new skills based on their strengths rather than being constantly frustrated with the world around them.

There is no single treatment for ASD, but, in some cases, medication may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms like these.

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Self-injury
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Attention problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety and depression

Other treatments your healthcare professional may recommend include behavioral, psychological, educational, vocational, or skill teaching interventions. Interventions are usually structured and intensive. They should involve parents and/or caregivers, siblings, teachers, and other important people in your child’s life.

The primary purposes of these treatments are to help your child:

  • Learn social, communication, and language skills
  • Reduce behaviors that interfere with daily activities
  • Expand strengths and build pre-requisite skills like listening and asking questions
  • Focus on life skills for greater independence now and in the future

What should I do next?

Could there be other reasons for these behaviors? The first step is to work with a licensed healthcare professional and learn more about your child’s behavior. Choose someone you know, like, and trust, such as one of the following.

  • Your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician
  • Mental health specialist

If you need help finding a healthcare professional, read online reviews on reputable websites, talk with other parents, or call us. We’re always here to help. You don’t have to go through this alone.

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