Autism and its Effects
Also known as an autism spectrum disorder, autism is a complex medical condition involving problems in behavior and communication. It can involve a broad range of signs and symptoms. Autism can be in the form of a minor challenge or a disability requiring around the clock care in a special institution. Individuals living with autism have challenges communicating. They have a hard time comprehending what others feel and think. This makes it difficult for them to express themselves, either through touch, facial expression, gestures, or words. Individuals living with an autism spectrum disorder might have learning challenges. They might experience unevenly developed skills. For instance, they could be unusually talented in memory, math, music, or art, but have trouble communicating. As a result, they might perform exceptionally well in problem-solving or on tests of analysis. More and more children are being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. However, these recently increased figures of individuals diagnosed with autism could be due to changes in how the condition is diagnosed rather than because more children have autism.
Causes of Autism
It is not clear what exactly causes autism. One of the explanations for the cause of autism is that individuals may develop the condition from problems in parts of the brain that process language and interpret sensory input. Autism is more prevalent among girls than boys with a ratio of 4:1. This means that the condition is four times more prevalent in the former than the latter gender. Autism occurs across social, ethnicity, and racial backgrounds. Family lifestyle, educational level, or lifestyle does not affect the risk a child has of developing autism. However, autism is a hereditary condition and specific gene combinations might increase a child’s risk.
On average, children born to older parents face an increased risk of developing autism. Being exposed to certain chemicals or drugs, such as anti-seizure medications or alcohol during pregnancy increases the probability of giving birth to an autistic child. Other factors that increase the risk of autism include maternal metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Recent studies have also shown that when left untreated, rubella and phenylketonuria may lead to autism. Although it has been suggested that vaccinations may cause autism, there is no evidence to support the claim.
Screening and Diagnosis of Autism
It can be difficult to find a specific autism diagnosis. Your physician will focus on development and behavior. Diagnosis usually involves two steps for children:
A development screening informs your physician whether your child’s basic skills such as moving, behavior, speaking, and learning are on track. According to experts, these development delays should be screened at nine months, eighteen months, and twenty-four, or thirty months of age during your child’s regular checkups. Usually, children are specifically checked for autism during their eighteen and twenty-four-month check-ups.
If these screenings show that your child may have some problems, a more comprehensive evaluation is carried out. This can include a genetic, vision, or hearing test. Your physician might recommend bringing in an autism spectrum disorder specialist, such as a psychologist or a developmental pediatrician. Some psychologists use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule for an autism diagnosis.
It is important to see your doctor if you begin to develop autism-like symptoms even if you were not diagnosed with autism during your early childhood.