A Parents Guide to Autism (Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impaired social functioning and communication disturbances. As of yet, we don’t know what causes Autism, but we suspect that it is caused by environmental and genetic factors

Symptoms of autism

Autism symptoms become evident between 12 and 24 months of age. However, they may also appear earlier or later in a child’s life. Early symptoms include a delay in language or social development. The symptoms of autism are usually separated into two categories: issues with social interaction and communication, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or experiences.

Problems with communication and social interaction:

  • issues with communication
  • issues with nonverbal communication
  • difficulties developing and maintaining relationships

Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior:

  • repetitive movements
  • rigid adherence to specific routines or behaviors
  • Sensitivity to sensory information from their surroundings
  • Interests that are fixated on certain activities

Causes of autism

As I alluded to earlier, the exact cause of ASD is unknown. Suspected risk factors for autism include:

  • having a relative with autism
  • genetic mutations
  • fragile X syndrome or additional genetic disorders
  • Having older parents
  • possessing low birth weight
  • metabolic and chemical imbalances
  • exposure to environmental toxins
  • history of viral infections
  • exposure to  valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid) as a fetus

Diagnosing autism

The diagnosis of ASD involves several screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations. We recommend that all children undergo screening for ASD at the ages of 18 and 24 months.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is the screening tool that most pediatricians use. This 23-question survey must be filled out by parents. Pediatricians can then use this information to identify children that may be at risk of having ASD.

Screening isn’t a diagnosis. To test for autism, we recommend a combination of tests, which include:

These exams are usually administered by a team of specialists, such as psychometrists, child psychologists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists.

Autism treatment

Unfortunately, at this time, autism can not be cured, but there are a lot of therapies that can help people manage the disorder.

Common therapies include:

  • behavioral therapy
  • play therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy

Concluding thoughts

There is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, with early and intensive behavioral interventions, parents and children can learn to better manage the disorder. The earlier ASD is detected, the better the outcomes. Autism is complicated, and no one has all the answers. Researchers are working around the clock to find a way to prevent and treat this disorder.