Today, autism, or, the more accurate term, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has accumulated far more understanding about certain characteristics of this condition. There is also far more understanding and tolerance for those diagnosed with ASD, a happy contrast from the past, where people with ASD would be poorly treated, and often misdiagnosed as mentally ill.
But just because we have a better understanding of ASD, and how it affects people, that doesn’t mean that this understanding is complete. And it doesn’t mean that the public at large is more aware of ASD and how to interact with ASD patients. If you’re uncertain as to what ASD is, and would like to know more about it, we’ll explain.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a medical condition, not a disease. This means that it currently has no known cure, unlike illnesses such as pneumonia, which can often be cured through specific medicines, vaccines, or other treatments. ASD can only have some of its symptoms managed or reduced, but the ASD itself cannot currently be eliminated.
ASD is a mixture of physiological, neurological, and behavioral symptoms that result in difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behavior patterns, and some physical symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues, or sleep disorders. As a result of this mix of neurological, physiological, and behavioral factors, this may sometimes lead to the development of additional disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and others.
Why Is It A Spectrum?
The reason that ASD is called a spectrum disorder is that there is a very large variance in the number of symptoms manifested, as well as the severity of those symptoms. The seriousness of the symptoms is occasionally classified by their ability to affect a person’s function in normal, everyday settings, and interactions. Some people diagnosed with ASD, for example, are considered “high functioning,” in that, aside from being regarded as introverted, or having eccentric behavior, they have never required any additional therapy or treatment, and the ASD doesn’t have a severe impact on their lifestyle.
However, the other end of the spectrum is referred to as “low functioning,” and this can mean that people diagnosed with ASD experience great difficulty in normal settings and interactions. Poor communication skills, such as low verbal interactions, refusal to make eye contact, and even aggression issues mean that without behavioral therapy, or in some cases, medications such as antipsychotics, individuals in this area of the spectrum require more treatment and attention and may never smoothly integrate into a normal social setting.
What Causes ASD?
Medical research revealed that a primary cause of ASD is genetic. The severity of ASD can vary, but if there is a family history of ASD, there is a likelihood that the ASD will be passed onto a child born within that family line. However, while genetic transmission is one of the main forms of ASD appearing in a person, it is not the only one.
There are conditions which can create ASD even in someone without the genetic characteristics. Many of these are pre-natal, meaning that circumstances before or during birth may create the condition. Mothers who become pregnant at a very advanced age raise the risks of a child being born with ASD. The weight of the child while developing in the womb also plays a role. Children with insufficient access to nutrition during pregnancy, and are chronically underweight during pregnancy have an increased risk of being diagnosed with ASD.
Even the birth itself, if not properly supervised, can lead to ASD. Hypoxia is a condition where the infant does not receive sufficient oxygen, which may result in brain damage or other effects. If hypoxia occurs shortly before, or during birth, sometimes the resultant oxygen deprivation can result in ASD.
What Are The Symptoms Of ASD?
It’s important to remember that people diagnosed with ASD will not have all the symptoms of ASD and that the severity of these symptoms can vary wildly, from mild to crippling. Some of the most common symptoms of ASD are:
Lack Of Eye Contact
People with ASD tend to find direct eye-contact over-stimulating due to the way they process information, and so avoid it. Depending on the severity, some therapy may overcome this.
People with ASD often find repeating a certain motion, such as rocking back and forth, or repeating certain behaviors, like playing with a toy in a particular way, soothing. As a result, they tend to engage in these activities at an abnormal rate of frequency.
Unique Speech Patterns
People diagnosed with ASD may develop distinct speech patterns, such as unusual vocal tones, or even a lack of tones, sounding robotic. They did not subconsciously integrate conventional speech patterns the way other children did.
Those diagnosed with ASD often place great importance in establishing and maintaining routines. Disruptions to routines can result in high irritability, and, in extreme cases, aggression.
Remember that it’s important always to consult a medical expert, and get a professional diagnosis of whether someone has ASD, before deciding what steps to take next.