What Is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disease that interferes with an individual’s ability to comprehend information. Autism is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication abilities in those affected. They have narrow interests and engage in behaviours that are repeated over and over again. They are also more likely to be sensitive to, or uncomfortable with, specific forms of sensory stimuli, such as certain lights or noises.
Because the symptoms of autism may vary so drastically from one person to the next, the illness is sometimes described as being on a spectrum and is also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The phrase “high functioning autism” has been replaced by the word “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is no longer used as an official diagnostic diagnosis.
Autism symptoms often become apparent by the age of two. According to the CDC, the illness is diagnosed in males four times more common than in females, even though women are frequently missed and given the incorrect diagnosis. In the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of diagnoses; however, it is not known if the incidence is growing, whether specialists are becoming more aware of it, or whether the diagnosis has altered to cover more minor degrees of impairment.
There is currently no cure for autism, and the search for one is not widespread: A lot of individuals think that autism shouldn’t be seen as a medical disease that requires some treatment. Targeted practices and treatments may assist in lessening symptoms for those on the lower-functioning end of the spectrum.
Autism Symptoms and Diagnosis
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental illness that affects a person’s social and communication skills, causes them to have limited interests or engage in repetitive behaviours, and presents difficulties in interpreting sensory information. The fact that symptoms change from person to person, both in terms of form and intensity, is reflected in the word “spectrum,” which describes this phenomenon.
Around the age of two, symptoms present themselves, and a diagnosis may be made. Some children never achieve the developmental milestones expected of them, while others grow up to the point when the condition takes hold. Despite the wide range in intensity of symptoms, those affected will usually have difficulties in their ability to interact socially and communicate. It may be difficult for parents to build emotional ties and parental attachments with their children if they observe that their newborn avoids eye contact or doesn’t react to their interactions. If a kid is on the end of the autism spectrum, they may have angry outbursts or stay silent. In contrast, children on the milder end of the spectrum may face difficulty while attempting to maintain eye contact or continue a conversation.
Early in infancy, children with autism demonstrate a wide variety of repetitive behaviours, such as making noises, flapping their hands, and swaying their bodies. They could repeat the process of arranging or stacking things again and over. Some children hurt themselves by repeatedly engaging in harmful behaviours such as biting their hands or bashing their heads against hard surfaces. They exhibit an early and consistent inclination for the predictable patterns of daily life.
One of the hallmarks of autism is a narrow range of interests; as a result, youngsters with the disorder may find great joy in reading comic books or railway timetables. They may dedicate a significant amount of time to specific hobbies and become authorities on the subject. Children who have autism may also suffer difficulty when exposed to certain sensory sensations, such as a lightbulb that buzzes or a garment that is unpleasant.
How is autism diagnosed?
According to the DSM-5, the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include difficulties with social skills, communication, sensory processing, and restricting or repetitive behaviours. Autism, like many other mental health illnesses, cannot currently be identified using a biological marker such as a blood test or brain scan; as a result, physicians depend on children’s behaviour to screen for and diagnose autism.
A typical screening test for toddlers with autism, known as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), depends on the responses of a parent or caregiver to a set of 23 questions. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) are diagnostic tools for autism. The ADOS allows a clinician to diagnose the condition by observing the child for approximately an hour. The ADI-R tests for the disease are based on a 93-question survey for parents or caregivers.
At what age is autism typically diagnosed?
At 2, autism can be correctly diagnosed in most children. Most children in the United States are not diagnosed until they are four or older; however, some children have more severe symptoms and are identified sooner.
At 18 and 24 months of age, regular checkups with a child’s primary care physician should include screening for autism, per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations if a baby is at a greater risk of acquiring the disorder, such as if they have an autistic sibling, the doctor may recommend undergoing extra screening.
The importance of an early diagnosis lies in the fact that it may make it possible for both parents and children to access treatments and programs that will promote healthy growth, such as behavioural therapy. People are increasingly being examined as adults as well. For some who have navigated the experiences of autism without a formal label, a late diagnosis of autism may be life-changing.
What are the early signs of autism?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the early symptoms of autism include avoiding eye contact, not exhibiting interest in other children or parents, talking less than other children, and becoming bothered by tiny changes to the daily routine.
Monitoring a child’s progress toward attaining certain developmental milestones may be beneficial. However, it is essential to bear in mind that the symptoms of autism manifest in different children in various ways. It is possible that some people may not achieve those milestones, while another, about one quarter, may pass each milestone initially but then regress later.
What are the signs of autism in adults?
In adults, difficulty establishing eye contact, keeping up with the conversation, forming friends, recognizing sarcasm or idioms, and reading the emotions of others may be signs of autism.
Autism is characterized by various conditions that may manifest in multiple behaviours, including ritualistic and repetitive ones. They may engage in in-depth discussion or practice of a specific subject because they have a strong interest in it, such as mathematics. They may also experience discomfort when exposed to certain sights, sounds, or sensations.
Adults with autism may have milder instances, making it more difficult to identify them, but receiving an official diagnosis is still a life-changing and inspiring event for people diagnosed with the condition.
What are the signs of Autism in women?
Autism is diagnosed in males four times more often than in females. However, the illness still affects many women, and their symptoms are often disregarded or misunderstood. Women who have autism may put forth a significant amount of effort to train themselves in how to act socially so that they may blend in with neurotypical people. They engage in compensatory behaviours, eventually allowing them to disguise the disease. In addition, the diagnostic tools that are now in use were developed by observing how men behave.
Autism may manifest itself in various unique ways depending on the individual. Women are more likely to develop an infatuation with a famous person or brand than they are with a specific thing or method. It’s not uncommon for women to struggle with uncomfortable clothing and ultimately choose comfort above style. Even if they’ve taught themselves to make eye contact, they may still avoid doing so instinctively. The inability to conform to the expectations of others may be detrimental to one’s sense of self-worth. It can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression, conditions that are perhaps more prevalent in females.
Is Autism a disability?
Yes. Autism is both a condition that occurs throughout development and a developmental impairment. Children with any impairment, including autism, are eligible for educational assistance programs and services. This may involve the creation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a Section 504 plan, both of which safeguard children from being subjected to prejudice and encourage them to participate fully in their education.
Symptoms of Autism
Despite the wide range in intensity of symptoms, those affected will usually have difficulties in their ability to interact socially and communicate. Some autistic children may not speak at all and continue to be silent throughout their lives, while others struggle very somewhat in social situations. Children who have autism often have narrowed interests and engage in repetitive behaviours.
It may be difficult for parents to build emotional ties and parental attachments with their children if they observe that their newborn avoids eye contact or doesn’t react to their interactions. Children who have autism may have atypical reactions to sensory input and may have a heightened sensitivity to certain noises, textures, tastes, and scents. They may have problems with their motor coordination and their muscular tone.
Children with autism often display many repetitive behaviours at an early age. These behaviours might include making noises, swaying their bodies, flapping their hands, and more. They could repeat the process of arranging or stacking things again and over. Some children injure themselves by repeatedly engaging in harmful behaviours such as biting their hands or bashing their heads against hard surfaces. In addition, they develop an early inclination for the consistent routines of daily life.
Causes of Autism
Nobody has a complete understanding of what causes autism. Since the turn of the century, there has been a significant uptick in the number of children identified as having the disease. However, specialists are uncertain whether this indicates an improvement in diagnostic knowledge or a genuine rise in prevalence.
The fact that persons with a sibling with autism have a higher risk of developing the condition themselves is evidence that genetics play a role in the development of autism. Autism is also more likely to occur in those with a parent of a more advanced age. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, another risk factor has low birth weight. Additionally, persons with certain genetic diseases, such as Fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, are more likely to have autism spectrum disorder.
Treatments for Autism
A wide variety of successful treatments and management strategies are available for autism. Children with autism may benefit significantly from an early intervention that includes highly organized behavioural, cognitive, and communicative therapy. This may sometimes considerably impact the child’s ability to acquire new skills. It is possible for intellectual functioning to be improved by the participation of autistic children in educational programs offered in a school setting.
Applied behaviour analysis (ABA)-based programs are now considered the gold standard of care for children and adults with autism. In most programs, parents are strongly encouraged to take an active role in the care provided for their children.
Although no medicine may reverse the deficits characteristic of autism, psychoactive medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants are frequently taken to assist with managing specific symptoms. Anticonvulsant medicine can potentially lessen the severity and frequency of a person’s seizures, but it cannot completely eradicate them.
Autism and Related Conditions
It seems that autism is associated with a wide variety of other physical and mental health issues. Individuals who have autism may also have other conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, difficulties sleeping, gastrointestinal problems, or Fragile X syndrome.
It is difficult to determine why both situations are present simultaneously and how one leads to the other (or vice versa). Nevertheless, choosing them is essential since it enables individuals with autism to treat their uncomfortable symptoms and enhance their day-to-day lives.
Parenting a Child with Autism
The diagnosis of autism in a kid may be very stressful for parents, who may experience a range of emotions throughout their journey through this experience. As a parent of a child diagnosed with autism, you will frequently need to conduct research on available programs and services, maintain detailed records, and become your child’s advocate in a variety of settings, including medical and educational institutions, in addition to adjusting to new concerns regarding finances and relationships.
It is essential to remember that autism is a disorder that affects a relatively high percentage of people. Many resources and trained specialists are available to assist parents in offering their children the highest level of assistance possible.
Autism at School
Children with autism may find it challenging to focus on their education in the classroom because of the stimulating environment, including loud noises and flashing lights. Children diagnosed with autism have the right to receive the assistance that may enhance their educational experience. Regarding this process, parents play a significant role in everything from establishing a tailored education plan to maintaining open lines of communication with educators.
Autism in Adulthood
The diagnosis of autism may not be made until later in life for some people. Varied people have different responses to this knowledge, but some are overcome with gratitude for the new insights they have gained about themselves.
People with autism who have reached this point may have successfully navigated college enrollment, located suitable accommodation, and gained employment. In each of these areas, solutions are available that provide varying degrees of help for people on the autism spectrum.
Autism and the Workforce
Autism presents a unique set of obstacles for individuals in the workforce, and as a result, some autistic people are unable to secure or maintain employment. Nevertheless, there is a rising push among businesses to acknowledge the advantages of neurodiversity, recruit individuals with autism, and support them in their jobs. This is a positive development.
Neurodiversity and the Autism Community
The idea of neurodiversity accepts, celebrates, and appreciates the variances between and among individuals who have autism and other types of abnormal variations in thought and behaviour. Those who are in favour of the neurodiversity movement argue that there is no such thing as a “normal” brain that can be used as a standard against which other brains may be evaluated. As a result, autism should be embraced and recognized to a far greater extent as a normal variation of the human neurological state.
In the same way, they stress the significance of other sorts of diversity and advocate promoting the worth of various types of brains and the necessary talents and contributions they provide. On the other hand, there are academics and medical professionals who believe that the idea of neurodiversity can only be applied sensibly to those who have high-functioning autism.
Theories of Autism
Researchers in the field of science have created a plethora of hypotheses to assist in explaining the origins of autism. The diametric mind hypothesis is one of these hypotheses. This theory suggests that autism and psychosis lie on opposing extremes of a spectrum of mentalism, which may be defined as the capacity to comprehend the thoughts and motivations of other people. The extreme male brain hypothesis is another one. It portrays autism as an extreme version of a usually “male” brain regarding its skills to organize and systematize information. Other views have been developed, such as the intense world theory and the social incentive hypothesis. Further study will be required to comprehend this complicated issue fully.
What’s the difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome?
The DSM-5, the most recent iteration of the diagnostic handbook for diseases affecting mental health, is responsible for creating the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. This encompassing diagnosis included three separate illnesses in the DSM-IV, the version that came before this. Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disability not otherwise described were the three disorders under question.
Those who were diagnosed with Asperger’s condition had weak social skills and engaged in activities that were restricting or repetitive. Although it is no longer a recognized diagnostic category, Asperger’s syndrome is nevertheless a term often used by individuals with autism but whose symptoms are not as severe.