Definition of Autism – Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are developmental and neurological disorders that influence a person’s thinkning, acts, communication and interactions with other people.
The disorder has an early offset—it is usually diagnosed by the age of 3. However, sometimes, signs and symptoms can be noticed even sooner.
The disorder is called a spectrum because it varies in number, type, and severity of symptoms.
What Causes Autism
The causes of autism are still a mystery. It is considered that autism can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Besides genetics, certain brain abnormalities such as dysfunction of synapses (the link between neurons) can also cause autism.
When it comes to environmental factors, such as consumption of certain medications during pregnancy, nicotine, alcohol, drugs, as well as infectious diseases can also be factors that may cause autism spectrum disorder.
One of the biggest controversies during the last couple of years was the implication that MMR vaccines cause autism. Even though this claim has never been proven—quite the opposite, many parents still refuse to vaccinate their children.
Autism Signs and Symptoms
Children with autism show a wide range of symptoms related to their social development, communication, motor skills, and behavior. They typically avoid eye contact, which, together with the lack of social smile, is one of the earliest symptoms parents notice. Other signs include:
- Not responding to their own name
- Lack of verbal and non-verbal communication
- Prefer alone time than playing with other children
- Learning difficulties
- Showing interest only in small number of objects or toys
- Repetitive movements
- Tolerate only certain texture of food or clothes
- Aggressive behavior
Can Autism be Cured
Autism cannot be cured, but can be treated. The goal is to focus on person’s strengths and not on his or her weaknesses, and by doing so improve individual’s quality of life as much as possible. This includes social participation and integration instead of institutionalization and segregation.
The sooner the treatment starts the prognosis is better. Kids with autism in most cases need support during their entire education. Professionals work on improving their motor, cognitive, communication, and social skills. Also, treatment might include application of certain medications, especially if a person suffers from mental health problems, epilepsy, or some other chronic condition.
Although autism cannot be cured, some individuals maintain their jobs, live alone, get married, and have children. In other words, they can do whatever a neurotypical person does during his or her lifetime. These people are mostly the ones with mild symptoms or what we call Asperger’s syndrome.
On the other side of the spectrum are individuals who express severe symptoms that can be combined with intellectual disability and mental illness. These people are unable to live alone without professional support.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is developmental (early offset) and neurological disorder. It affects the entire person, including his or her behavior, social skill, communication, etc. What causes autism is not yet known; although, the most probable causes are genetic and environmental factors. Even though autism cannot be cured, it can be treated. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a good prognosis.