Autism: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
It is estimated that 1 in 59 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a type of developmental disorder, autism has become a concern among many parents these days. Let us spare a few minutes to learn more about the condition, along with its symptoms and treatment.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term that refers to developmental disability. The condition causes impairment in children’s ability to communicate. For now, this is the most common developmental disorder. Children with ASDs tend to have repetitive behavior, and often experience difficulties in social interactions.
As a prevalent developmental disorder, ASD can occur in any individual – regardless of their race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups. However, it is more commonly found in boys – specifically, boys are four times more likely to be affected than girls.
Generally, ASD is comprised of 3 main groups:
- Classic Autism: This is the most common;
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS);
- Asperger Syndrome.
What are the common signs and symptoms of Autism?
Some common signs of children with ASD include:
- Having trouble in verbal/ nonverbal communication;
- Difficulty in understanding other people;
- May feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed by noises or lights;
- Avoiding eye contact;
- Difficulty in explaining their own feelings.
The specific signs and symptoms may vary from case to cases. Some children with ASD only show mild severity, while other autistic children may require lifelong assistance. This is also known as a spectrum disorder.
In addition, the first signs usually occur during early childhood. From then on, the signs may last throughout their life.
What are the causes of Autism?
The exact reason for the development of autism in children has not yet been identified. It is believed that autism is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. On the other hand, studies that utilize imaging techniques have found out some developmental differences in some regions of autistic children’s brains.
In addition, premature birth may also play a role in developing autism.
Contrary to many people’s belief, ASDs are not caused by:
- Parental practice;
Be advised that autism is not a viral infection; autistic children cannot spread ASD to other children.
What may increase the risk of Autism?
There are several risk factors for ASD. First, the condition is more likely to occur in identical twins. A higher risk of ASD is found among children with autistic siblings. Maternal and paternal age also contribute to the risk factors of ASD as well. As reported by the CDC, the consumption of valproic acid and thalidomide (prescription drugs) during pregnancy may contribute to the development of ASDs.
Diagnosing ASD in a child is not an easy task. Your healthcare provider cannot diagnose ASD in a child only with a medical test. For example, a blood test will not help doctors in diagnosing ASD.
Instead, the doctors will confirm the disorder with standardized testing, evaluation, and developmental screening.
Some of the common tests to diagnose ASD are:
- Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS);
- Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC);
- Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS).
In a developmental screening procedure, the purpose is to find out developmental delays in a child. This is an important screening that must be done for children with a higher risk of ASD, such as those born preterm, low birth weight, and those who have autistic siblings.
In this procedure, the doctor will examine the child’s speaking, learning, and movement ability. Their behavior will also be taken into account. If the doctor notices a delay in any of these aspects, further evaluation might be required.
An extensive evaluation may help the doctor confirm whether the signs and symptoms shown by the children are caused by ASD. First, the doctor might ask the parents some questions about their children.
Furthermore, a more comprehensive observation will be done to evaluate the child’s behavior and his/her development.
To help the doctor in making a correct diagnosis, some medical tests may be conducted, including:
- Hearing and vision screening;
- Genetic test;
- Neurological test.
The condition can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, but the most reliable diagnosis is usually determined when the children are 2 years old.
A personalized treatment can help in managing the signs and symptoms of children with ASD. The following treatment plans may help improve the life quality of autistic children.
Behavior and communication approaches
There are several approaches to help children with ASD. For instance, in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), can alter their way of thinking by encouraging positive behaviors. Then, occupation therapy might be handy to teach autistic children how to perform daily activities (e.g: eating, bathing, etc.).
For children with ASD who are easily bothered by sounds, lights, or touches, sensory integration therapy may help them cope with these problems.
Lastly, speech therapy can provide a reliable method to improve their communication skills.
As of now, there are no medicines that can treat autism. Instead, medications only aid in managing symptoms and improving life quality. The prescription drugs may help in related problems, such as depression, inability to focus, insomnia, and seizures.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy may help in restoring neurological functions and stabilizing the immune system of children with ASD, as reported by Stem Cell Treatment Now. When combined with other supportive therapies, patients may expect improvements in their:
- Social interaction;
- Communication (verbal or nonverbal);
- Decrease in repetitive behavior;
- Better speech ability;
- Muscle tone;
- Mental development.
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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
What is autism? https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/what-is-autism/. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism? https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/symptoms-of-autism#1. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
About Autism. https://www.genome.gov/Genetic-Disorders/Autism. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Screening and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Autism-Spectrum-Disorder-Fact-Sheet. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Autism/Stem Cell Therapy. https://globalstemcells.com/treatment/autism/. Accessed on September 30, 2019.
Stem Cell Therapy for Autism. https://stemcelltreatmentnow.com/treatments/stem-cell-treatment-autism/. Accessed on September 30, 2019.