Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder involving behavioral and communication deficits. Individuals with ASD often have difficulty communicating and interacting in social situations. They are often very routine oriented and engage in repetitive behaviors. ASD is usually diagnosed at approximately 2 to 3 years of age. ASD has a wide spectrum of severity, ranging from gifted to severely challenged. Research shows that boys are four times more likely to develop ASD than girls.
The cause for ASD is currently unknown, but research shows that genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the causation of ASD. Individuals who have a sibling with ASD, were born to older parents, have genetic conditions (Rett syndrome, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, tuberculosis sclerosis), born before 26 weeks gestation, or born with low birthweight are at greater risk for ASD. Research also shows that taking valproic acid or thalidomide during pregnancy can increase the risk for ASD. Despite popular belief, vaccinations or poor parenting are NOT causes for ASD.
Symptoms of ASD include:
Little or no eye contact
Difficulty socializing or reacting to social cues
Difficulty empathizing or understanding others’ feelings
Slow response to name or verbal cues
Talking at length without letting others respond
Inappropriate situational reactions
Repetitive speech or actions
Intense interest in one subject or detail
Disturbance by changes in routine
Greater or diminished sensitivity to sensory input (light, noise, color, temperature, etc.)
Losing skills or language he or she once had
While there is no medical cure for ASD, early intervention by family and healthcare professionals is important. ASD is most often treated with prescribed medication to help control symptoms, behavioral therapy, educational therapy, family therapy, or combination of all four. ASD is diagnosed by a healthcare professional analyzing an individual's behavior and development. Individuals with ASD may go on to live on their own and live relatively normal lives or may require lifetime care depending on the severity of their condition.
Due to the nature and unknown causation of ASD, there are no methods to prevent this disorder other than minimizing risk by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, especially during pregnancy.
American Psychiatric Association. (2018, August). What is autism spectrum disorder? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 25). What is autism spectrum disorder? https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, January 06). Autism spectrum disorder. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928
The National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, March). Autism spectrum disorder. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml#part_145438