Autism Spectrum Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Know all about autism spectrum disorder to make sure the diagnosis is made at an early stage.

2 min read
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Autism spectrum disorder is a range of neuro developmental disorder that involves delay in development of many basic skills and functions including the ability to socialise and communicate. Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions such as autism, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintergrative disorder and an unspecified form of a pervasive development disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association reclassified pervasive developmental disorder to autism spectrum disorder. The condition begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person's life. It causes problems with functioning in society. Autism spectrum is estimated to affect about 62.2 million people globally till the year 2015.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ASD is diagnosed more often in males than in females.


Autism Spectrum Disorder: Causes

The exact cause of the condition is unknown. The experts suggest that genes can act together with influence from the environment to affect a child's development in a way that brings about autism spectrum disorder. According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, certain factors that may put a person at a higher risk of developing autism spectrum disorder include:

  • Family History of the condition

  • Males are at higher risk than women

  • Down syndrome

  • Fragile X syndrome

  • Rett syndrome

  • Extreme preterm babies

  • Babies born before 26 weeks of gestation

  • Tuberous sclerosis

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Symptoms

Symptoms are usually seen by the age of 2 years. Children suffering from this condition can display a unique pattern of behaviour and severity ranging from mild to disabling. People with autism spectrum disorder generally have problems with social communication and interaction and patterns of behaviors. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some of the social communication and interaction symptoms are:

  • Poor eye contact

  • Lack of facial expression

  • Failure or slow in responding to someone

  • Resistance to holding

  • Retreating in their own world

  • Preference of playing alone

  • Difficulty in verbal communication

  • Problem understanding or speaking the language

  • Difficulty in non-verbal communication

  • Difficulty in sleeping

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Limited or repetitive patterns of behavior

  • Abnormal tone of voice

  • Performing self-harm actions


Autism Spectrum Disorder: Diagnosis

There is no specific test to diagnose the condition. But in order to diagnose the condition, a specialist may recommend genetic testing to detect any genetic disorder such as fragile X syndrome, down syndrome or Rett syndrome. They might even observe the child, ask the parents or guardians about the socialising and behavioral skills of the child or any changes in recent times.

The doctor may take small tests that may involve hearing, speech, language, developmental level, behavioural issues.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatment 

There is no cure for this disorder but intensive early treatment can make a huge difference in the lives of many children. The goal of treatment is to improve the ability of the child to function by reducing symptoms, and supporting development and learning. According to the National Autistic Society, treatment options inlcude therapy such as :

  • Behavioral and communication therapy

  • Educational therapy

  • Family therapy

  • Speech therapy

  • Occupational therapy

The kind of therapy depends on the child's need. The core symptoms of autism cannot be improved with medications, though problems of anxiety and severe pschotic behaviour can be controlled with the help of antidepressants.

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