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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Updated on July 24, 2020
shyamaladevi Babu profile image

A Biochemist, Research scholar, freelancer, article writer.

"Autism is not a disability, it's a different ability"
"Autism is not a disability, it's a different ability"

What is Autism?

Autism is also called as “spectrum” disorder, affects the nervous system which impacts on overall emotional, cognitive, physical and social health of the affected person [1].

What are the Causes and Risk factors?

The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates that there’s no single cause [2].

Risk factors

  • having an immediate family member with autism
  • genetic mutations
  • fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders
  • being born to older parents
  • low birth weight
  • metabolic imbalances
  • exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
  • a history of viral infections
  • fetal exposure to the medications valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), reported that both genetics and environment may determine whether a person develops autism [3].

What are the Symptoms?

The severity of symptoms may vary widely. The common symptoms of affected people include trouble with communication, difficulty in social interactions, repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests [3].

People may experience:

Behavioural: inappropriate social interaction, poor eye contact, compulsive behaviour, impulsivity, repetitive movements, self-harm, or persistent repetition of words or actions

Developmental: learning disability or speech delay in a child

Cognitive: intense interest in a limited number of things or problem paying attention

Psychological: unaware of others' emotions or depression

Also common: anxiety, change in voice and sensitivity to sound

"Love me for who i am,

Not for who you hope

I'll be somebody.

Love isn't about fixing me.

Its about accepting me."

- Unknown

What tests are used to diagnose autism?

Several different screenings, genetic tests and evaluations are involved in the diagnosis of ASD.

Developmental Monitoring

It involves in observation of child’s growth and changes over the time to analyze the developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving and moving. Parents, grandparents and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring. You can also check with a brief checklist of milestones [4] to analyze your child development. If there is any abnormal result, talk with your doctor.

Developmental Screening

It takes a closer look at your child’s development. The Physician involves you to complete a questionnaire about your child and your child will get a brief test. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening to all children at the ages of 18 and 24 months.

Other screenings and tests

Diagnoses are made typically by a team of specialists such as child psychologists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists. For more details visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [5].

What are the Treatment Methods?

Currently, there is no treatment for cure. But several interventions are developed and studied to be used with young children. These interventions may reduce symptoms, improve daily living skills, cognitive ability and maximize the ability to participate and function within the community [6]

The treatments methods generally can be broadly divided into 4 categories.

Behavior and Communication Approaches

Dietary Approaches

  • Vitamins and mineral supplements [7]


As already mention, there is no medication for ASD to cure. Although, there are some medications which can improves the ability to focus and help in the management of behavioral reactivity (self-injury or seizures) anxiety and depression [8].

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Some healthcare professionals and parents use treatments which are outside of what is typically suggested by pediatricians to relieve and improve the symptoms of ASD. These treatments are called as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It refers to services or products which are used instead of or in addition to traditional medicine. CAM might include special diets (dietary supplements)[9], chelation (a treatment method to remove heavy metals such as lead from the body), biologicals (for example, secretin) or mind-body medicine [10].

"If they can't learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn"

© 2020 shyamaladevi Babu


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