Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability resulting in communication, social, and behavioral difficulties. ASD impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, resulting in communication and social interaction issues. Autism spectrum disorder may include limited or repeated types of behavior. However, the term “spectrum” in ASD means a wide range of symptoms and severity of the disorder.
Specific vital abilities like thinking, learning, and problem-solving of those with ASD can vary from gifted to severely affected. Some patients need a lot of support in their daily lives, while others may not need any.
Autism can have a serious impact on education and employment. In fact, 85% of college-educated people with autism are unemployed. The level of support provided by the national and local authorities, and societal attitudes are crucial factors in determining the quality of life of those with ASD.
At well child visits, the pediatrician evaluates their behavior and development. If there are any developmental delays or behaviors that signal autism, the pediatrician will provide a referral to a developmental pediatrician or pediatric neurologist. There are screening tests for autism like the M-CHAT that is given to toddlers. However, the diagnosis of autism is missed or delayed in many people, particularly girls and women.
There are no blood or medical tests to diagnose the disorder. The symptoms and signs of ASD can be identified by collecting information and testing. Surveillance and developmental monitoring is an ongoing and active process of watching the growth of a child. Encouraging conversations between family and support providers about the abilities and skills of the child is key.
Autism Spectrum Disorder can sometimes be detected at the age of eighteen months or earlier. When a child is two years of age, a diagnosis by an experienced doctor can be very reliable. Many children, however, don’t receive a final diagnosis till an older age. This delay with children suffering from ASD can deprive them of the early help they need.
Children with autism are able to interact and communicate well if they are given timely access to psychosocial interventions based on evidence. It is very important to monitor the effects of autism on children’s development to ensure child’s health care. Advocating for a loved one or patient with ASD is key.
Signs and symptoms:
ASD is a spectrum disorder, meaning that every individual with autism has a separate set of strengths and problems. Those with autism may struggle with communication, emotional, and social skills. The determination of severity can be difficult owing to the mixture of symptoms in every child. It is normally based on the level of impairments.
People with ASD also have different ways of paying attention, learning or reacting to others. Symptoms of autism start during early childhood and can last till the end of life.
Sometimes children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early childhood. This can include reduced eye contact, indifference to caregivers, or lack of response to their name. Other autism-affected children may develop normally at an early age, but they suddenly become aggressive or withdrawn or lose language skills. These signs and symptoms can be seen by the age of two years.
Some children, suffering from autism, have difficulty in learning, while some show lower than normal intelligence. Some have normal to high levels of intelligence, and learn quickly, yet have difficulty in communicating and applying their skills in daily life and adjusting to various situations. Some common signs shown by those with autism spectrum disorder are as follows:
Social Communication and Interaction Skills:
Interaction and social communication skills can be challenging for those with autism. They may show the following signs:
- Avoids or does not keep eye contact
- Cannot start a conversation or keep on going, or only starts on to make a request or label an item
- Resists holding and cuddling, and seems to prefer playing alone, living in his/her own world
- Speaks with an abnormal tone, like monotone, or rhythm
- Unable to play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by one year of age
- Use few or no gestures by twelve months of age
- Does not wave goodbye
- Shows little interest in children of his age
- Does not play games with turn-taking
- May not respond to questions or directions
- Has difficulty in understanding others’ feelings or talking about own feelings
- Does not show facial expressions like sad, angry, surprised, or happy
Restricted or Repetitive Behaviors or Interests:
Those with autism have unusual interests or behaviors. A child or adult with ASD may have repetitive patterns or limited activities, interests, or behaviors, including any of these signs:
- Arranges toys or other items in an order and gets upset when the order changes
- Develops certain rituals or routines and shows anger at any change
- Plays with toys the same way daily
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Is focused on parts of objects, like wheels
- Gets upset with minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Rocks body, flap hands, or spins self in a circular motion
- Is usually sensitive to light, touch, or sound
- May be indifferent to temperature or pain
- Has unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, sound, look or feel
- Has certain food preferences, such as eating only selected foods and refusing others
The number of children with autism spectrum disorder is on the increase. It can’t be clearly said whether this is due to better diagnosing and reporting or there is a real increase in the number of cases or both. It affects children of all nationalities and races.
- Boys are 4 times more likely to develop ASD than girls
- Families with one child with ASD are more likely to have another child with the disorder.
- Children with other medical conditions have a relatively higher risk of ASD.