Autism is a neuro developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then regress. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent in early childhood, typically before age three.
Autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some cases are strongly associated with certain infections during pregnancy including rubella and use of alcohol or cocaine.
Autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) describes a group of complex disorders of brain development such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Atypical Autism and Childhood Autism. ASD is a lifelong developmental condition that affects the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people. The word “spectrum” describes the range of difficulties that autistic people may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. The main areas of difficulty are in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests it also includes affects of motor communication in the child and typically develops at the age of 2-3 years old .
People who have autism find it difficult to act in a way that other people think is “normal”. They find it difficult to talk to other people and to look at other people. Often, they do not like being touched by other people. A person who has autism seems to be turned inwards. They may talk only to themselves, rock themselves backwards and forwards, and laugh at their own thoughts. They do not like any type of change and may find it very difficult to learn a new behaviour like using a toilet or going to school.
Autism is caused by the way that the brain develops, both before and after a baby is born. Around the world, about one in every 160 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been “we have no idea.” Research is now delivering the answers. First and foremost, we now know that there is no one cause of autism, just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes or mutations associated with autism.Research has identified more than 100 autism risk genes. In around 15% of cases, a specific genetic cause of a person’s autism can be identified.
However, most cases involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development. In other words, in the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of non-genetic or environmental influences further increase a child’s risk.At first glance, some people with autism may appear to have an intellectual disability, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, as an accurate and early autism diagnosis can provide the basis for an appropriate educational and treatment program.
Other medical conditions or syndromes, such as sensory processing disorder, can present symptoms that are confusingly similar to autism’s. This is known as differential diagnosis.A typical diagnostic evaluation involves a multi-disciplinary team of doctors including a pediatrician, psychologist, speech and language pathologist and occupational therapist. Genetic testing may likewise be recommended, as well as screening for related medical issues such as sleep difficulties. This type of comprehensive helps parents understand as much as possible about their child’s strengths and needs. (For local and regional centres specializing in the coordinated medical care of children and adolescents with autism, explore our Autism Treatment Network and visit our Resources page)
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviours. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviours and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life.
The severity of symptoms varies greatly, but all people with autism have some core symptoms in the areas of Social interactions and relationships. Symptoms may include Significant problems developing nonverbal communication skills, such as eye-to-eye gazing, facial expressions, and body posture, Failure to establish friendships with children the same age, Lack of interest in sharing enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people, Lack of empathy. People with autism may have difficulty understanding another person’s feelings, such as pain or sorrow.
Treating Self-injury, Early Start Denver Model Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Floor time and Pivotal Response Training, Social Skills Interventions, Sensory Based Therapies, and Diagnosing and Treating Extreme Behaviour in Children with AutismThe child receives structured, therapeutic activities for at least 25 hours per week.
Highly trained therapists and/or teachers deliver the intervention. Well-trained paraprofessionals may assist with the intervention under the supervision of an experienced professional with expertise in autism therapy.The therapy is guided by specific and well-defined learning objectives, and the child’s progress in meeting these objectives is regularly evaluated and recorded.
The intervention focuses on the core areas affected by autism. These include social skills, language and communication, imitation, play skills, daily living and motor skills.
Examples of these treatments are Speech & Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, or the care of a Neurologist or Gastroenterologist.