Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological condition that impacts how a person communicates, understands, and socializes with others. The symptoms of autism also include restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ due to the wide range of symptoms that vary in severity.
Autism spectrum disorder sets in prenatal stages, soon after delivery or in early childhood, causing functionality issues. Some children may appear to grow normally for the first 12 months and may suddenly exhibit symptoms of autism or a period of regression between 12 to 24 months of age. Parents often wonder as to what causes autism spectrum disorder?
What CausesAutism Spectrum Disorder?
Both genetic and environmental factors are the reason behind the onset of autism.
Genetic Factors: Different types of genes are said to be the cause of autism in children. In some children, autism is associated with a genetic disorder such as Fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome. Genetic changes or mutations also increase the chances of autism spectrum disorder which are either inherited or occur spontaneously. They affect brain development and disturb the brain's plasticity.
Environmental Factors: Some of the factors such as viral infections, alcohol, and drug abuse, medication for depression, exposure to air pollutants and toxic along with complications during pregnancy, play an important role in prompting autism spectrum disorder.
Other Risk Factors:
Extreme prematurity: A baby born before 26 weeks of gestation has a greater chance of acquiring autism spectrum disorder.
Parent’s age: A child born to older parents also has a risk of having this disorder.
Each child with autism spectrum disorder has a different set of symptoms that varies in the level of severity and functioning. They may have difficulty learning, lower/normal/high intelligence levels, trouble in communicating and adjusting to social situations.
Symptoms of social, communication and intellectual disabilities
Some of the symptoms of autism that exhibit social, communication and intellectual disabilities in children are:
Failure to respond to his/her name
Do not like to be touched or embraced
Prefer playing alone and avoid other children
Poor eye contact
Lacks facial expression
Speaks a singsong voice
Do not understand orders
Unaware of other people’s emotions
Do not point at objects
Difficulty in understanding nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, signs or the tone of voice
Symptoms of Behavior Disabilities
Repetitive or restricted movements
Follow a specific routine and get annoyed at the slightest change
Has odd movement patterns, such as walking on toes
Fascinated by certain parts of the toys such as the wheel of a bus or the head of a teddy bear
Show sensitive towards sound, light, or touch
Specific food preferences of a particular texture or color
Because of the unique mixture of symptoms in each child, severity can sometimes be difficult to determine. The severity of autism spectrum disorder in children is based on the level of impairments and their ability to function. While there is no cure for autism, early treatment through various rehabilitation therapies can make a big difference in the lives of individuals.