Understanding Autism

about-autism-page-picture-oneAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with impairments in communication and social interactions. Signs of autism may be visible in infancy (18-24 months), but usually become clearer around 2-6 years old. Autism is described as being a spectrum disorder and can vary in its severity. Some people display mild characteristics, while others are affected more severely.  People with autism are often very intelligent, creative, and unique. According to Autism Speaks, individuals with autism often excel in math, art, music and the use of visual skills.

Strengths of Autism

  • Live in the moment
  • Offer unique perspectives
  • Intelligence and perseverance
  • Creative
  • Honest
  • Non-judgmental
  • Not tied to social expectations

Difficulties of Autism

  • Resistance to be held or cuddled
  • Little to no eye contact
  • Difficulties in understand other’s feelings
  • Difficulties socializing with peers
  • Excessive interest in one or two topics
  • Unaware/Uninterested in what is going on around them
  • Resistance to change
  • Sensory issues
  • Atypical eating habits
  • Sleeping problems
  • Self-Injurious behaviors (e.g., biting, scratching, head banging)
  • Aggressive behaviors

Some behaviors associated with autism are

  • repetitive behaviors
  • limited or no eye contact
  • delayed learning in language/communication
  • limited and intense interests
  • motor skills deficits
  • engaging in problem behavior

Causes of ASD

Although there currently is not a consensus on the cause(s) of ASD, there is research available that points to links to autism. The overall research indicates that autism may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, Autism Speaks suggests that women who eat a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) before and after the time of conception reduce their risk of having a child with autism. Some factors that may increase the chances of having a child with autism include, age of parents during conception, maternal sickness during pregnancy, and birth difficulties involving lack of oxygen to the baby. Vaccinations have not been scientifically linked to being a cause of autism.

Treatment for ASD

While there is no medical cure for autism, early intervention treatment can make a significant difference in the short and long term success of individuals diagnosed with ASD. Intensive behavior interventions (e.g., applied behavior analysis (ABA)), along with speech, physical, and occupational therapies are often used in the treatment for symptoms of ASD. Treatments can take place in a person’s home, school, community, or center. Effective treatments are comprehensive; that is, treatment should involve the individual’s family and team of professionals/therapists. Additionally, some physicians may recommend medication treatments for more severe symptoms of autism. Talk to your doctor or contact us for more information about treatment options.