Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological condition that impacts a person’s perception and social behavior.

It causes problems in social interaction and communication of the individual.

These disorders are more concerned with the development of the individual.

Spectrum in it refers to wide range of symptoms along with severity.

It starts in the early age and lasts through out the life of an individual.

It is one of the common disorder among the 10 most common mental disorders.

Causes:

The causes of it are not known to have a single reason.

Based on the severity and symptoms there can be many causes.

Both genetics and environment may play a role.

  1. Genetics. Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children,it can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of it.
  2. Environmental factors. Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering the disorder.

One of the greatest controversies in autism spectrum disorder centers on whether a link exists between the disorder and childhood vaccines.

There is no link between childhood vaccines and the autism spectrum disorders.

Avoiding childhood vaccinations can place your child and others in danger of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles or mumps.

Risk factors

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is rising.

  1. Your child’s sex. Boys are about four times more likely to develop disorder than girls are.
  2. Family history. Families who have one child with this disorder have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder. It’s also not uncommon for parents or relatives of a child with this disorder to have minor problems with social or communication skills themselves or to engage in certain behaviors typical of the disorder.
  3. Other disorders.  Examples include fragile X syndrome, an inherited disorder that causes intellectual problems; tuberous sclerosis, a condition in which benign tumors develop in the brain; and Rett syndrome, a genetic condition occurring almost exclusively in girls, which causes slowing of head growth, intellectual disability and loss of purposeful hand use.
  4. Extremely preterm babies. Babies born before 26 weeks of gestation may have a greater risk of this disorder.
  5. Parents’ ages. There may be a connection between children born to older parents.

Symptoms:

Some children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early infancy, such as reduced eye contact, lack of response to their name or indifference to caregivers.

Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they’ve already acquired.

Signs usually are seen by age 2 years.

Each child with autism spectrum disorder is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior and level of severity — from low functioning to high functioning.

Some children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty learning, and some have signs of lower than normal intelligence.

Because of the unique mixture of symptoms in each child, severity can sometimes be difficult to determine.

It’s generally based on the level of impairments and how they impact the ability to function.

Below are some common signs shown by people who have autism spectrum disorder.

Social communication and interaction:

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of these signs:

  1. Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
  2. Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
  3. Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
  4. Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences
  5. Can’t start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items
  6. Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  7. Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them
  8. He/ She Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions
  9. Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
  10. He/She point at or bring objects to share interest
  11. Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
  12. Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice

Patterns of behavior:

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, including any of these signs:

  1. Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
  2. Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging
  3. Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  4. Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language
  5. Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the overall purpose or function of the object
  6. Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature
  7. Doesn’t engage in imitative or make-believe play
  8. Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
  9. Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture

As they mature, some children with autism spectrum disorder become more engaged with others and show fewer disturbances in behavior.

Some, usually those with the least severe problems, eventually may lead normal or near-normal lives.

Others, however, continue to have difficulty with language or social skills, and the teen years can bring worse behavioral and emotional problems.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders:

  1. Asperger’s syndromeThis is on the milder end of the autism spectrum. A person with Asperger’s may be very intelligent and able to handle her daily life. She may be really focused on topics that interest her and discuss them nonstop. But she has a much harder time socially.

2. Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). This mouthful of a diagnosis included most children whose autism was more severe than Asperger’s syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder.

3. Autistic disorder. This older term is further along the autism spectrum than Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. It includes the same types of symptoms, but at a more intense level.

4. Childhood dis integrative disorder. This was the rarest and most severe part of the spectrum. It described children who develop normally and then quickly lose many social, language, and mental skills, usually between ages 2 and 4. Often, these children also developed a seizure disorder.

Treatment:

The types of treatments generally can be broken down into the following categories:

  1. Behavior and Communication Approaches
  2. Dietary Approaches
  3. Medication
  4. Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Behavior and Communication Approaches:

  1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is often used in schools and clinics to help your child learn positive behaviors and reduce negative ones. This approach can be used to improve a wide range of skills, and there are different types for different situations, including:
  • Discrete trial training (DTT) uses simple lessons and positive reinforcement.
  • Pivotal response training (PRT) helps develop motivation to learn and communicate.
  • Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) is best for children under age 5.
  • Verbal behavior intervention (VBI) focuses on language skills.

2. Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR). This kind of treatment is better known as Floortime. That’s because it involves you getting on the floor with your child to play and do the activities he likes.

It’s meant to support emotional and intellectual growth by helping him learn skills around communication and emotions.

3. Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH). This treatment uses visual cues such as picture cards to help your child learn everyday skills like getting dressed. Information is broken down into small steps so he can learn it more easily.

4. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). This is another visual-based treatment, but it uses symbols instead of picture cards. Your child learns to ask questions and communicate through special symbols.