April has been designated as autism month in order to spread more awareness about autism spectrum disorder. Previously, this disorder did not get the attention it needed and was not given the importance it deserved in order to spread more awareness and information regarding it. Thankfully, now there is a lot more information available regarding this behavioral disorder.
What Is Autism?
Autism is termed as a complex neuro-behavioral disorder in which impairments are observed in social interactions, communication skills, and developmental language along with behavior which is repetitive and rigid. Because there is a spectrum of symptoms described as autism, the term “autism” is an umbrella term and is often known as “autism spectrum disorder” or “ASD” as well. It also covers a range of skills and levels of impairments displayed by patients. When the condition is severe, it results in either a handicap that can hamper the day-to-day functioning of the patient or a serious disability that can have devastating effects and requires the patient to seek institutional care.
Autism is usually detected in early childhood, sometimes even before a child turns three years old.
Types of Autism
As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-V), which is a guideline published by the American Psychiatric Association, a number of symptoms and conditions have been categorized as types of autism and these include:
- Asperger syndrome
- Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Autistic disorder
Symptoms of Autism
Communication and social interaction skills are the ones affected in those suffering from autism or ASD. The symptoms include:
- Avoiding eye contact with others
- Adopting an unusual speech pattern which sounds like a robot-like tone
- Unable to respond to one’s own name when called out to
- As an infant, inability to respond to parents in the form of cooing and babbling
- Development of speech skills later than usual
- Experiencing difficulty with maintaining conversations
- Experiencing difficulty in comprehending feelings of others and also while trying to express one’s own feelings
- Frequently repeating phrases
- Repetitive body movements which are stereotypical, such as rocking, flapping of hands, pacing
- Resistance to change in daily routine
- Unusual responses to people
- Attachments to certain objects
- Self-injuring or aggressive behavior
- Disturbed, troubled, or pained by otherwise normal sounds, sights, smells, and touches
Sometimes, seizures are also seen in children suffering from autism.
Causes of Autism
The majority of the cases of autism are found within a family and that is why it is assumed by researchers that children can be predisposed to autism due to a combination of certain genes. Spontaneous mutation of genes or inheriting genes is also speculated to cause autism.
Risk factors which increase chances of autism include:
- Advanced age of a mother or father, which can lead to autism in children
- Exposure of pregnant women to certain chemicals and drugs
- Metabolic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, found in a mother
- Usage of alcohol during pregnancy
- Usage of anti-seizure drugs during pregnancy
- Owing to untreated rubella and/or untreated phenylketonuria
A lot is now known about autism, and though not curable, knowledge and certain therapies can help reduce its symptoms or severity.