Showing posts with label what causes autism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label what causes autism. Show all posts

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Autism–A Growing Concern

Because April is Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, April is a good time to focus on this fastest-growing of the developmental disabilities, with an estimated growth rate above 1,100%.

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disability – a malfunction of the brain that impacts a speech, learning, and communication skills.  It is more precisely known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) due to its wide range of symptoms and impairment or disability levels. One in every 88 children in the U.S. are reported to have some level of autism.

The symptom range is broad. Some children are only mildly impaired and may grow up to be self-sufficient. Other children are more severely disabled and may require a lifetime of care.

Diagnosing autism

Common autism symptoms, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH), include:
  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts;
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities;
  • Early presentation of symptoms (typically recognized in the first two years of life); and,
  • Significant impairment in social or occupational skills.
Some common symptoms parents and caregivers should be looking for include poor eye contact, late or absence of speaking, a preference to be alone, not playing or interacting with others, repetitive movements, or extreme emotional behavior (bouts of laughing or crying that have no apparent reason, tantrums, etc.). If you see such symptoms, have your child medically evaluated for ASD.

Many leading organizations in child development, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, advise autism screening for all toddlers (18 and 24 months of age).  But with continually improving methods of diagnosis, experts are recommending even earlier screening when an infant may be at high risk for autism, such as when the older siblings have already been diagnosed with ASD.

Early diagnosis and intervention is important.  Early intervention has been shown to reduce the effects of autism. When treatment is started early, during the time of hyper brain development (between ages 0 and 3), a child can experience significant progress and improvements before they begin kindergarten.

What causes autism?

Medical research has not yet identified the exact causes of ASD. The growth in the numbers of those diagnosed in recent time is largely due to better diagnosis, but it is believed that genetics and environment can play a part.

Regarding genetic influences: Identical twins often share an ASD condition, and siblings generally have a 35-fold greater risk of developing the disorder. 

As for ASD environmental influences, researchers are finding links between ASD and certain family medical conditions, the age of the parents, exposure to toxins, and birth or pregnancy complications.

Autism Resources

If you have concerns about your child's development and possible ASD symptoms, here are some services and resources to help:
  • The Autism Society of America (ASA). The ASA has chapters throughout the country and provides info on symptoms and treatments.
  • NIH’s A Parent’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder intended to help parents understand ASD, recognize signs and symptoms, and find resources.
  • Autism Speaks, one of the world's leading autism science and advocacy organizations, funds research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and a cure for autism. their website provides a wealth of information and resources for parents of children with ASD.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer