Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it can appear in a range of forms and severity levels. The prognosis for a child with autism depends on the severity of their initial symptoms but can be influenced by early intervention and treatment.
For years autism was thought to be irreversible. While autism is a lifelong condition, there are now evidence-based treatments that can help and support people with autism. Parents and caregivers of people with autism collaborate with clinicians to identify the treatments most likely to support the individual and appropriately address their symptoms.
1. Prognosis for Autism
Receiving a diagnosis of autism can be devastating to some parents, but for others it can be a relief to have a label for their child’s symptoms. However, these strong emotions also motivate parents to find effective help for their children and seek evidence-based treatments in the critical early intervention phase. The diagnosis is important because it can open the doors to many services, and help parents learn about treatments that have benefited similar children.
The most important point we want to make is that autistic individuals have the potential to grow and improve. Contrary to what you may hear from out-of-touch professionals or read in old books, autism is treatable. The earlier these children receive appropriate treatment, the better their prognosis. Their progress through life may be slower than others, but they can still live happy and productive lives with appropriate support.
2. Treatments influence prognosis
Many researchers, clinicians, and parents have investigated and tracked the efficacy of autism treatments over time. While each individual with autism is different, some treatments have shown positive effects for people with autism. ARI’s online webinars, presented by qualified experts can help you gauge which treatments might be most effective for your loved one. However, parents should seek out the advice of a qualified health professional before starting any autism treatment.
3. Early detection and early signs
One of the main challenges parents with autistic kids face is sending them to proper schools and providing them with the necessary care. You have the possibility to send your child to an ordinary class if you wish. However, your child will need certain school arrangements defined in a Personalized Schooling Project (PPS). You also have the possibility to choose homeschooling. What is the best choice? It is difficult to identify the care needs of an autistic person and in case of health problems, you will need to find a trained health professional in autism, which is not an easy task.
4. The diagnosis
Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.
A parent, pediatrician, or teacher can look at possible symptoms of autism, and screening tests like M-CHAT can help determine if a child is at risk for autism. However, a formal diagnosis of autism requires evaluation by an experienced psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, or developmental pediatrician (a pediatrician who specializes in developmental disorders). Some people are easy to diagnose, but in milder cases or in cases with other concurrent symptoms, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis. Some children are initially misdiagnosed with other disorders, such as speech retardation or ADHD. A physician should base his diagnosis both on personal interaction with the child and on conversation with the parents about her behavior in other settings. Two common misconceptions are that if a child can talk or is affectionate, then they cannot have autism. That is not true.
A. Causes of Autism
Autism appears to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but it is generally unclear which genetic and which environmental factors are important. About 5-10% of autism cases involve a single severe genetic defect or disorder, such as Fragile X or tuberous sclerosis, and many of those individuals develop the symptoms of autism. However, 90-95% of cases do not involve a single severe defect, but instead, appear to require a complex set of many genetic variations and environmental factors.
B.Common co-occurring conditions in Autism
- Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD): The fraction of people with autism who also meet the criteria for IDD has been reported as anywhere from 25% to 70%, a wide variation illustrating the difficulty of assessing intelligence when language delays are present.
- Seizures: It is estimated that 25% of autistic individuals eventually develop seizures, some in early childhood and others as they go through puberty (changes in hormone levels may trigger seizures).
- Low Muscle Tone: A study conducted by the first author found that 30% of autistic children have moderate to a severe loss of muscle tone, and this can limit their gross and fine motor skills.
- Pica: 30% of children with autism have moderate to severe pica. Pica refers to eating non-food items such as paint, sand, dirt, paper, etc. Pica can expose the child to heavy metal poisoning, especially if there is lead in the paint or in the soil. Discuss zinc supplementation with your clinician.
- Sensory Sensitivities: Many autistic children have unusual sensitivities to sounds, sights, touch, taste, and smells. High-pitched intermittent sounds, such as fire alarms or school bells, may be painful to autistic children.
- Sleep Problems: Many with autism have sleep problems.
- Chronic Constipation and/or Diarrhea: A large-scale survey of over 1,000 individuals on the autism spectrum found that 45% had gastrointestinal problems; and the older the individual, the more likely they had these problems.