In honor of Autism Awareness month, here are the basic facts about autism - its symptoms, causes, treatment options, and resources for parents.
Autism is a complex neurological developmental disorder that affects children all over the world. Causes and treatments for the condition are being researched as more and more people are diagnosed.
April is National Autism Awareness month, a time advocates hope will shed light on the condition, reduce any stigma and promote public discussion. This designation for the month of April has been official since the 1970s.
What is Autism?
There are varying degrees of autism (the autism spectrum), but all have common symptoms and expressions in people. Asperger’s syndrome, Rett Sydrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, for instance, are some of the conditions on the autism spectrum. According to the National Autism Association, the disability is generally detected before the age of 3. In the U.S., it affects 1 in every 110 children, and 1 in every 70 boys.
What are the Symptoms of Autism?
While specific symptoms vary from person to person, they can include:
Extreme sensitivity to sound and/or physical touch
Poor social skills
No reaction to direct eye contact
Unawareness of how his or her actions affect others
Unawareness of others’ feelings
Difficulty mastering language
Repeating words or phrases over and over
Developing specific routines and coming under serve stress or anxiety if those routines are interrupted
What About Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome is considered to be on the highly functioning side of the autism spectrum. It causes a person to exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviors, become fascinated with particular objects, move clumsily and engage in one-sided conversations. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it is estimated that 1 in every 10,000 children have Asperger’s, and boys are three times more likely to be affected than girls.
What Causes Autism?
While a direct cause for autism is up for debate, researchers have begun to focus on possible genetic and/or environmental causes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the disorder may also be linked to changes in brain structure.
Autism is not a symptom of bad parenting.
What Are Autism Treatment Options?
Treatment ranges with the severity of autism and doctor recommendations. Generally this includes behavioral and/or educational therapy and/or medication.
Behavioral therapy helps children work on social skills and other daily tasks. Educational therapy gives autistic children the chance to learn in a way that suits them.
Medicinal treatment includes drugs prescribed to treat depression or anxiety, as autistic children can experience both of these.
Alternatively, creative therapies, such as music or art therapy, have been shown to help some children. Changes in diet, including yeast-, gluten- and casin-free, are also non-medicinal options, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What Are Some Resources for Parents of Autistic Children?