Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Autism which is also known as autism spectrum disorder, is a developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. Parents usually notice signs during the first two or three years of their child’s life and signs often develop gradually.

It is estimated that autism affect 24.8 million people as of 2015 worldwide. In the developed countries, about 1.5 percent of children are diagnosed with ASD as of 2017.More than 1 million cases are reported in India per year. ASDoccurs four-to-five times more often in boys than girls.

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How does Autism affect your body?

Autism affects information processing in the brain by making alterations to how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize.

What are the causes of Autism?

  • Genetics– For some children, autism can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, mutations may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder and somegenetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.
  • Environmental factor-It is still being observed whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.
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What are the risk factors of Autism?

  • Sex of the child– Boys are about four to five times more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder than girls are.
  • Family history– Families with an autistic child have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder.
  • Other disorders– Children with certain medical conditions have a higher than normal risk of autism or autism-like symptoms. These conditions include fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosisand Rett syndrome.
  • Extremely preterm babies-Infants born before 26 weeks of gestation may have a greater risk of ASD.
  • Parents’ age– There may be a connection between children born to older parents and autism, but more research is necessary to establish this link.
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What are the symptoms of Autism?

Autistic patients show following symptoms or features:

  • Social impairments
  • Communicate nonverbally
  • Aggression, tantrums, destructing property
  • Delayed onset of babbling
  • Diminished responsiveness
  • Repetitive or restricted behavior
  • Toe walking
  • Poor muscle tone

How is Autism diagnosed?

Diagnosis of autismspectrum disorder is based on behavior, not cause or mechanism. For diagnosis symptoms include lack of social or emotional reciprocity, stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language, and persistent preoccupation with unusual objects.

If justified, diagnosis and evaluations are conducted with help from ASD specialists, observing and assessing cognitive, communication, family, and other factors using standardized tools, and taking into account any associated medical conditions.

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How to prevent & control Autism?

There’s no way to prevent autism, but there are treatment options. Early diagnosis is most helpful and intervening can improve behavior, skills and language development.

Treatment of Autism- Allopathic Treatment

No cure exists for ASD and the goal of treatment is to help the child with ASD to function by reducing symptoms and supporting development and learning.

Medications used:

  • Antipsychotic drugs– Drugs like risperidone and aripiprazole are used for treating associated aggressive and self-injurious behaviors.
  • SSRI antidepressants-Drugs like fluoxetine and fluvoxamine are effective in reducing repetitive and ritualistic behaviors.
  • Stimulant medicationMethylphenidate is beneficial for children with co-morbid inattentiveness or hyperactivity.

Therapies include:

  • Behavior and communication therapies– There are programs that address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Educational therapies– Children with autism often respond well to highly structured educational programs which include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior.
  • Other therapies– Depending on a child’s needs, speech therapy to improve communication skills, occupational therapy to teach activities of daily living, and physical therapy to improve movement and balance may be beneficial.

Treatment of Autism- Homeopathic Treatment

  • Carcinosin– This is helpful in children affected by autism who are talented, but are obsessive, compulsive and stubborn, have sleep related issues and may also have addictive disorders.
  • Agaricus– This medication is effective for children who suffer from involuntary jerking when they are awake.
  • Cuprum Metallicum– This is prescribed when the child is being obsessive, angry and is inflexible, tense and is very aggressive towards their parents.
  • Androctonus– This is for patient who tends to swing wildly from a stable good mood to a destructive mode.
  • Helleborus– This medication is used when the child is slow and under active and seems to be depressed most of the time.
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Autism- Lifestyle Tips

  • Parents and the family members of an autistic child can learn how to play and interact with him/her in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
  • Follow a predictable schedule because your child may not tolerate change.
  • Maintain a structured environment because things being out of place can be upsetting to a person with autism.
  • Be aware of unusual sensitivities; an autistic person may not know what is happening with him/her.
  • Avoid distractions as slight disturbances may disrupt a person with autism from the task at hand.
  • Organize tasks and even simple tasks may need to be broken down into small parts and directed one-at-a-time to keep the child on track.

What are recommended exercise for person with Autism?

Aerobic exercise like walking, running, cycling and swimming for 20 minutes or long, 3 to 4 days a week.

Autism & pregnancy- Things to know

  • During pregnancy certain risk factors including certain infections, such as rubella, and toxins including valproic acid, alcohol, cocaine, pesticides and air pollution can increase the risk of autism in the offspring.
  • Eat a healthy diet which includes folic acid because according to a study low amount of folic acid increases the risk of ASD or ASD-like symptoms in the baby.

Common complications related to Autism

  • Sensory problems
  • Seizures
  • Tumors
  • Unusual sleep and eating habits

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