Autism: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis done based on an individual’s difficulty in accomplishing normal tasks such as general human interaction and understanding human behavior. This can be an insignificant issue or a much-complicated condition requiring full-time care in an institution designed specifically for taking care of patients dealing with the disorder.

The difficulty faced by individuals dealing with ASD to understand, recognize and comprehend emotions and gestures of people around them disables them to express themselves effectively either by using facial expressions, gestures or words.

Individuals dealing with autism might also have difficulty in learning, or have an uneven development of skills, for example, they can be exceptionally good at arts, mathematics, music or at remembering information but they might at the same time face difficulty while communicating. Due to the developments in recent researches, a rise of awareness in the general public, and several changes in how the disorder is being diagnosed, there has been an increased number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, there is a larger number of boys being diagnosed compared to girls. This can be because autism in girls has different symptoms than that of their male peers.

The most common symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder include a lack of eye contact, repetition of something; e.g. phrases or actions, higher interest in certain topics, the higher sensitivity of the senses; e.g. sounds, touches, or smells, difficulty understanding speech, facial expressions, gesture, or tone of voice. Individuals suffering from autism can also have trouble adapting to a change in their routine. Some individuals dealing with autism can also suffer from seizures. However, these seizures might not start until the child is much older.

Autism Spectrum Disorder can be further classified into four different types including:

  • Autistic Disorder: this is the most widely known form of ASD. Most people think of autistic disorder when they hear the word “autism”. The common symptoms of Autistic Disorder include trouble with communication and social interactions.
  • Asperger’s syndrome: young individuals dealing with Asperger’s syndrome do not find difficulty with language. However, they have trouble with social skills and have a narrow range of interests.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder: children suffering from childhood disintegrative disorder achieve typical milestones until the age of at least 2 years. However, they later lose almost all of their communication and social skills.
  • Pervasive development disorder: also known as PDD or atypical autism, is usually referred to by doctors when a child has some autistic attributes, e.g. delays in social and communication skills, but does not fit into any other category under ASD.

Although researchers and scientists have not yet pinpointed the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder, some researches show that the genetics of a person can react along with the impact of the environment around the individuals in a way that affects their development leading to ASD. Despite being uncertain as to why some individuals develop Autism Spectrum Disorder and others don’t, scientists have highlighted a small number of risk factors that can be the cause of such development including having very low birth weight, having a sibling that is affected by ASD, having older parents, or suffering from a genetic condition.

The main procedure that a doctor follows while diagnosing any form of ASD is careful observation of the individual’s behavior and development. Autism Spectrum Disorder can normally be diagnosed genuinely by the age of 2 years. If an individual is concerned for their child, it is important to seek examination by a professional as soon as possible. The process of diagnosing ASD in adults and children varies on the age of the patient. Every child should receive a wellness checkup in the early stages of their life and the care provider detects the early signs of ASD if present during those checkups. Infants who display a delay in developmental progress at this stage will then be examined further at the second stage of the screening.

If a child is referred to the second stage of the evaluation process, they will then be assessed by a team of professionals’ expert in the diagnosis of ASD. This second assessment is with a group of doctors and other health care professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD. This team consisting of a pediatrician, child psychologist, a speech pathologist and a neuropsychologist will then asses the child’s language abilities, age-appropriate milestones as well as their cognitive level and thinking skills.

When it comes to children who are older than 5 years and teens, the first signs of ASD are usually noticed by their teachers and parents. They are then tested by their school’s psychiatrist or special education team. If symptoms of ASD are found in such cases, the school then recommends that the child be taken to a health care provider for further evaluation and checkups. In a case as such when a child is diagnosed with ASD their parents or guardians will then be recommended the action to be taken; i.e. the child will be accompanied by a shadow teacher and continue in the same school or attend a school specially designed to facilitate children with ASD.

When evaluating and diagnosing adults for ASD doctors can face difficulty as some of their symptoms can be similar to those of other mental disorders. However, if an adult feels threatened to be suffering from any form of undiagnosed ASD they are recommended to contact their health care provider who will, in turn, refer them to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

Doctors and other health care professionals recommend starting the treatments of ASD soon after a patient has been diagnosed with the disorder. This will allow the individual to receive proper care as well as end a difficult period of their life when they have the right kind of support system around them. Treatments for such a disorder vary from individual to individual as no one case is similar to another. Thus, depending on the severity of the disorder experts will recommend the proper form of treatment and medication for the patient.

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