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Autism – What Are The Symptoms & Risk Factors?

Autism - What Are The Symptoms & Risk Factors

Autism is a brain disorder that often makes it difficult for a person with it to relate to others. In autism, different areas of the brain fail to work together. It is also called autism spectrum disorder.
People with autism hear, see and feel differently from others. If you are autistic, you will have autism for the rest of your life. It is not a disease and cannot be cured.

All autistic people face some difficulties but it affects everyone in different ways. Some autistic people have learning disabilities, mental health problems, or other conditions that mean people need different types of support. When given the right kind of support, an autistic person can be of great help.

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Types of Autism

Autistic Disorder
Most people think of this type of autism when they hear the word autism. People with autistic disorder typically speak late and face social and communication challenges, as well as unusual behaviours and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual problems.

Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger’s syndrome usually have few symptoms of autistic disorder. They may face social challenges and may also have unusual behaviours and interests. However, they usually do not have language or intellectual problems.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder
People who have some of the symptoms of autistic disorder or Asperger’s syndrome may have a pervasive developmental disorder. Such people usually have fewer symptoms or intensity than people with autistic disorder. Symptoms can only lead to social and communication challenges.

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Symptoms of Autism

Social communication and communication problems –

  • Failing to respond to your name.
  • Resist hugging or catching and preferring to play alone.
  • Avoiding making eye contact and lack of facial expressions.
  • Inability to speak or delay speaking or not speaking words or sentences that were previously spoken properly.
  • Not being able to start or continue a conversation or start a conversation just for a request.
  • Speaking with an unusual rhythm, using the sound of a song or a robot-like voice.
  • Repeating words or phrases but not understanding their usage.
  • Inability to understand simple questions or directions.
  • Not expressing one’s own feelings and being ignorant of others’ feelings.
  • Avoiding social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive.

Behavioural symptom

  • Repetition of certain movements, such as moving, twirling, or waving hands, or self-harming songs (such as head banging).
  • Developing a specific routine or ritual and becoming upset at the slightest change.
  • Keep moving continuously
  • Behaving uncooperative or being resistant to change.
  • Coordination problems or doing strange activities (such as walking on toes).
  • Being unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch and not feeling pain.
  • Do not indulge in artificial games.
  • Carrying out a task or activity with unusual intensity or focus.
  • Having odd food choices, such as eating only certain foods or eating foods of certain textures.

Causes and Risk Factors of Autism – Autism Causes & Risk Factors

There is no known cause of autism spectrum disorder. The complexity and severity of the disorder vary from person to person, so there are many known causes. Both genetics and environmental factors play an important role in autism.

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Genetic problems

Many different genes are involved in autism spectrum disorder. In some children, autism may be related to a genetic disorder. For others, genetic changes may make a child more susceptible to autism or create environmental risk factors. Some genetic problems are familial, while others occur on their own.

environmental factors

Researchers are currently exploring whether viral infections, pregnancy complications, or air pollution cause autism spectrum disorder.

What are the risk factors for autism?

Autism spectrum disorder affects children of all races and nationalities, but certain factors increase the risk. like –

  • Gender – Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.
  • Family history – If one child in a family has autism, the other child is at a higher risk of developing it as well.
  • Other disorders – Children with certain medical problems have a higher risk of developing autism.
  • Premature babies – Babies born before 26 weeks may be at higher risk of autism.
  • Age of parents – Children born to older parents may be more likely to have autism, but research is still needed on this topic.

Prevention of Autism

Autism cannot be prevented, but you can reduce some of your risks if you try the following lifestyle changes –

Stay healthy – get regular check-ups, eat a well-balanced diet, and exercise. Make sure you have good prenatal care and take all the recommended vitamins and supplements.
Do not take medicines during pregnancy – ask your doctor before taking any kind of medicine during pregnancy. Especially anti-seizure drugs.
Do not drink alcohol – Do not consume alcohol during pregnancy.
Seek treatment for existing health problems – If you have Celiac Disease or PKU (Phenylketonuria), follow your doctor’s advice to get it under control.
Get vaccinated – make sure you’ve been vaccinated against German measles – also known as rubella – before becoming pregnant as it can prevent rubella-related autism.

Testing for Autism – Diagnosis of Autism

Diagnosing autism can be difficult because there are no tests for it like the tests that exist to diagnose other disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to diagnose it.

Autism is diagnosed in two stages –

Developmental test
Detailed Clinical Evaluation
Developmental test

A developmental test is a small test used to tell whether a child is learning a basic skill. During the developmental check-up, the doctor may ask the parent questions or ask to speak with the child and observe how he or she learns, speaks, behaves, and moves. Delays in any of these areas could be a sign of a problem.

It is important that doctors check all children for developmental delays, but especially watch children who are at high risk of autism. A detailed clinical evaluation is needed if the doctor sees signs of a problem.

Detailed clinical evaluation

The second step in diagnosis is a detailed evaluation. In this, the behavior and development of the child are checked and the parents can also be asked questions. This may include hearing and vision tests, genetic testing, neurological tests, and other medical tests.

In some cases, the primary care physician may recommend taking the child to a specialist for further evaluation and diagnosis. like –

  • Specialist in child development and special training in children.
  • Specialist in the brain, spine, and nerves.
  • Human brain specialist.

Autism Treatment

There is no cure for autism. However, it is possible to increase learning capacity and mental development in a number of ways. These methods are as follows –

Practical Training and Management

Behavioral training and management use positive methods, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. A variety of treatments have been developed, including applied behavior analysis, treatment, and education of children with autistic and related communication disabilities.

Specific therapy

This includes speech, occupational and physical therapy. These therapies are important for the management of autism and should be included in the treatment of all children. Speech therapy helps children communicate effectively. Occupational and physical therapy can help improve coordination. Occupational therapy can help the child to better understand the information of the senses.


Medications are used in autism to treat related problems such as depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity.

Complications of Autism

Autism can have the following complications –

Emotional problems – If you have autism, you may be overly sensitive. Even loud sounds or bright lights can cause significant emotional discomfort for you. You may not be able to respond at all to certain stimuli, such as extreme heat, cold, or pain.

Seizures – Seizures are common in people with autism. They often encounter it in childhood or early in their teens.

Mental health – Having autism can put you at risk for depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviour and mood changes.

Tumors – Tuberous sclerosis is a rare disorder that causes tumors to grow in your organs, including your brain. The link between tuberous sclerosis and ASD is not yet clear.

Feature Image credits: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

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