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December 29, 2020

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding the signs and symptoms

Children's Health Autism

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Emotion emoticons used by a psychologist during a therapy session with a child with an autism spectrum disorder KatarzynaBialasiewicz/

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) begins in early childhood. It’s a condition that’s related to brain development, although doctors aren’t exactly sure of the cause. Risk factors may include genetics, environment, and even pregnancies in older women. It’s important to note that there is no connection between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders used to be defined by intense, obvious symptoms that generally represented only the most challenging cases. Now that scientists have more information, it’s understood that autism exists on a wide spectrum—and is pervasive enough to affect up to 1 in 54 people. The rate at which children suffer from it is increasing, and understanding the signs and symptoms of the condition is vital to ensuring a high quality of life for those affected.

Early signs

As children develop, problems in socialization and communication are likely to be the first indicators of ASD. Trouble interacting with other children, or engaging in repetitive patterns, are good reasons to alert a pediatrician, who can arrange a preventative screening if necessary. Common signs of autism are seen by two years of age, but each case is unique, and may be revealed alongside other symptoms.

Common symptoms

There are clear symptoms to look out for when interacting with a child who might be on the spectrum. Some social indicators of ASD include:

• Not responding to their name, or resisting physical contact
• Inability to make eye contact or demonstrate facial expressions
• Trouble communicating, either through inability to have a conversation or speaking in abnormal tones
• Repetition of words or phrases without context
• Difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues
• Not expressing emotion
• Inappropriate approaches to social interactions, such as being disruptive or passive

In addition to trouble with socialization, those on the spectrum may exhibit patterns of behavior that appear repetitive and limited, such as:

• Rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping repeatedly
• Biting, head-banging, or other actions that cause self-harm
• Sensitivity to light, sound, touch or taste (through specific food preferences)
• Fixating on specific activities, or objects—including a detail without understanding its purpose
• Odd movement patterns or poor coordination

Living with autism spectrum disorder

Because the range of symptoms for ASD are so broad, each child’s prognosis is different. While there is no way to prevent ASD, treatment starting at an early age can make a big difference. Many children will go on to live completely normal lives and even see their symptoms become less visible as they learn to manage them.

The most important thing for children with autism is building a unique course of treatment for their specific symptoms with an experienced physician. Components of ASD treatment plans are likely to include:

• Behavior and communication therapy
• Educational therapy
• Family therapy
• Medication (to manage symptoms)
• Managing other medical / mental health issues

Most children with ASD will continue to develop into strong, well-rounded people with a little extra love and support. Although they may have some unique requirements, the right learning structure and support system will prepare them for college, employment, independence, and a happy, healthy life.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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