Is Your Child On The Autism Spectrum?

The Causes, Symptoms and Signs of Autism

To understand Autism, you have to understand the Autism ‘spectrum’.  Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain and is one of a group of problems that are part of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  An Autism Spectrum Disorder typically occurs during childhood and is usually discovered before a child reaches 3 years of age. However, unlike other illnesses that affect the brain, not all cases of Autism are the same and they may vary in severity and symptoms.  Nevertheless, regardless of how mild or severe the case, the presence of Autism affects how an individual interacts and communicates with others.

What causes Autism

Researchers have yet to identify a single known cause and are still struggling to understand how or why it develops. The major complication that makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of the disease is the fact that it is so highly complex: no two autistic children are alike.  That said, while cause(s) have yet to be determined, researchers believe the following factors likely play a role:

Genetic malfunctions – Abnormal brain development may be inherited or may spontaneously occur.
Environmental issues – Studies are being conducted to determine if certain elements, such as pollutants or viral infections may trigger Autism.
Other potential causes being explored – complications during labor and delivery, immune system problems and certain children’s vaccines.  Vaccines as a possible cause of Autism are the source of a great deal of conflict in the Autism community.

What are the signs and symptoms of Autism?

The signs and symptoms of Autism typically occur in early childhood and vary from child to child. In fact, it is very possible for two children who receive the same diagnoses to have incredibly different skills. However, in the vast majority of cases, children generally have issues in three critical development areas and tend to display symptoms in each:

1. Social interaction – Possible symptoms: does not respond to name; poor eye contact; resists physical affection; oblivious to the feelings of others; seems to not hear at times; enjoys being alone.

2. Language – Possible symptoms: cannot say sentences or words; refrains from eye contact when speaking; may speak robotically or in a singsong voice; learns to talk later than average children; cannot begin or maintain a conversation; repetition of words or phrases.

3. Behavior – Possible symptoms: follows specific rituals or routines; constantly moving; unusual sensitivity to sound, touch and light, but unresponsive to pain; finds change – even small change – upsetting; makes repetitive movements, such as rocking.

So, let’s talk about the Autism ‘Spectrum’.  Some children with Autism on one end of the spectrum have difficulty acquiring new knowledge and have less than average intelligence.  On the other end of the spectrum, some children show signs of normal to extremely high intelligence and learn quickly but have problems with communication and applying their knowledge to daily life situations.  There is a very small group called “Autistic Savants” who struggle socially but are particularly skilled at specific subjects, such as music, art or math.

The bottom line is that every Autistic child is unique and the types of symptoms they have will differ. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ definition of Autism, and that’s why a child diagnosed with Autism is defined as being on the ‘Spectrum’.  Make sense?