What is Autism? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition related to the brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others.

Updated on May 17, 2019 02:55 PM IST  |  1.5M
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Autism and its related disorders are now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ASD is found among many individuals in the world irrespective of their caste, race, culture or economic background. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism does occur more often in boys than girls. In 2014, nearly 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism. 

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate, interact and behave properly in social situations. It begins in early childhood and causes problems in functioning socially in society. It includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviours. 

It covers a large spectrum of symptoms and levels of impairments. Children with autism have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. They face trouble in communication too. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or gestures. 



What Are The Symptoms of Autism?

Some children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early infancy whereas others show as they grow. Some of the common symptoms of autism are:

  • Adoption of unusual speech pattern
  • Avoiding eye contact with others
  • Not responding to their name
  • Late development of speech skills
  • Having difficulty with maintaining conversation
  • Frequently repeating phrases
  • Difficulty in understanding feelings and expressions of their own



Each child with autism spectrum disorder has a unique and different pattern of behaviour and severity. Some have difficulty learning whereas some have signs of lower than normal intelligence. Each child has a unique mixture of symptoms, therefore severity can be difficult to determine at times. No two people with autism are alike, but many parents notice signs of the disorder when their child does not meet certain developmental milestones, typically between 18 months to 3 years of age. 

It is important to know that autism isn’t a mental illness or a condition that gets worse over time. Everyone grows out of it and matures over time with treatment.



What Causes Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder has no single known cause. However, genetics and environment may play a role. Some of the suspected causes of autism are given below:

  • Having an immediate family member with autism
  • Low birth weight
  • Genetic mutations
  • A history of viral infections
  • Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
  • Metabolic imbalances
  • Being born to older parents



How is Autism Treated?

There is no particular cure for autism but there are several therapies that can help a person feel better. Autism treatments are rarely medical. Behavioural therapy is the oldest and most fully researched treatment specifically developed for autism. 

Many therapies for autism include:

  • Behavioural therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Occupational therapy
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