Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental conditions.
These conditions are characterized by differences in communication and social interaction. People with ASD often demonstrate restricted and repetitive interests or patterns of behavior.
ASD is found in people around the world, regardless of race and ethnicity, culture.
Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early signs of this disorder can be noticed by parents/caregivers or pediatricians before a child reaches one year of age. However, symptoms typically become more consistently visible by the time a child is 2 or 3 years old. In some cases, the functional impairment related to autism may be mild and not apparent until the child starts school, after which their deficits may be pronounced when amongst their peers.
Social communication deficits may include:
- Decreased sharing of interests with others
- Difficulty appreciating their own & others’ emotions
- Aversion to maintaining eye contact
- Lack of proficiency with use of non-verbal gestures
- Stilted or scripted speech
- Interpreting abstract ideas literally
- Difficulty making friends or keeping them
Causes and Risk Factors
We do not know all of the causes of ASD. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.
- Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD.
- Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD.
- Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, can have a greater chance of having ASD.
- When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASD.
- There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth.
- Children born to older parents are at greater risk for having ASD.
Tips For Parents
- Learn as much as possible about autism spectrum disorder
- Provide consistent structure and routine
- Connect with other parents of children with autism
- Seek professional help for specific concerns
- Take time for yourself and other family members