Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), often referred to as Autism, is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood. It may affect a person's relationships, self-control, communication, and social skills. It also includes Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. People with Autism have trouble understanding what others think and feel. They find it difficult to express themselves as a result, whether through gestures, facial expressions, touch, or words. Everyone's experience with autism is unique. It is frequently referred to as a "spectrum condition" because it affects people differently and to varying degrees and is defined by a specific set of behaviours.


People with autism might have problems with learning. Their skill growth might be uneven. For instance, they might struggle with communication but excel in math, music, art, or memory.This skill may help them perform particularly well on analytical or problem-solving tests.

However, rather than more children having the disorder, the most recent figures may be higher as a result of changes in the way it is diagnosed.


Signs and Symptoms:

Autism is characterized in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which is employed by clinicians to diagnose Autism by Persistent differences in communication, interpersonal relationships, and social interaction across different environments.


A child with autism may exhibit behaviours as early as infancy, but their severity usually increases as they age. A child's doctor should conduct developmental screenings focused on autism. Every child should undergo this screening at the age of 18 and 24 months.

Some common symptoms may include:

  • A lack of eye contact

  • A limited range of interests or a strong passion for certain subjects

  • Repeating sounds or phrases (echolalia)

  • Difficulty making and keeping friends

  • Not looking at or listening to other people

  • Not looking at things when another person points them out

  • Not wanting to be held or cuddled

  • Extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli or a markedly reduced sensitivity to them

  • Difficulty understanding or using speech, gestures, facial expressions, or tone

  • Speaking in a flat, robotic, or sing-song voice

  • Having trouble adapting to changes in routine

In light of the fact that autism is characterized by symptoms ranging from mild to severe, it's important to remember that people can experience symptoms of mild, moderate, or severe severity. Some people may have several symptoms, but only experience them to a mild degree. Other individuals may only exhibit symptoms in a few key areas, but suffer severe impairments from those symptoms.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders:

  • Asperger's syndrome- This is on the milder end of the autism spectrum.An Asperger's sufferer might be extremely intelligent and capable of managing their daily life. They might be obsessively interested in certain subjects and talk nonstop about them. But they have a much harder time socially. These children don't have a problem with language; in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have social problems and a narrow scope of interests.

  • Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or Atypical Autism)- Doctors might use this term if a child shows some autistic behavior, like delays in social and communications skills, but doesn’t fit into another category. Includes most children whose autism is more severe than Asperger's syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder.

  • Childhood disintegrative disorder- This is the rarest and most severe form. This is a condition in which children develop normally but then lose many social, language, and mental skills between the ages of 2 and 4. Sometimes, these children also developed a seizure disorder.

Causes and Factors:

It is generally accepted that Autism is caused by differences in brain structure or function, but no single cause is known. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in the development of people with autism compared to those with neurotypical development. Researchers are looking into a number of theories, including the connections between heredity, genetics, and health issues, but they do not yet know the precise cause of autism. It is not brought on by vaccinations, parenting methods, or dietary habits. The idea that the disorder has a genetic basis is further supported by the observation that there appears to be a pattern of Autism or other related disabilities in many families. Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may affect brain development in an unexpected way, often resulting in Autism. Still other researchers are investigating complications during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to toxic chemicals.

While studies have shown that genes play a significant role, premature birth and old paternal age have also been linked to the development of autism. Research points to a genetic connection including studies showing that children who have a sibling with autism are at a higher risk of having autism. A study carried out on children of the U.S. under 18 years old reported the results of quantitative characterization of 2,920 children from 1,235 families participating in a national volunteer register, with at least one child clinically affected by an autism spectrum disorder and at least one full biological sibling. A traditionally defined autism spectrum disorder in an additional child occurred in 10.9% of the families. An additional 20% of non autism-affected siblings had a history of language delay, one-half of whom exhibited autistic qualities of speech.


Treatment:

While autism is a lifelong condition, there are treatments that can help with many symptoms and improve people’s ability to function in different areas of life. There is no single treatment that is best. People with autism have a wide range of symptoms so that means that each person's needs are different. Some of the treatment options that might be used include medications and therapy.

  • Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-psychotics, stimulants, anti-anxiety medications, and anticonvulsants may help with symptoms. Treatment for autism often focuses on behavioural, psychological, or skills training interventions.

  • Behavioural and communication therapy to help with structure and organization. Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is one of these treatments; it promotes positive behaviour and discourages negative behaviour. Occupational therapy can help with life skills like dressing, eating, and relating to people. Sensory integration therapy might help someone who has problems with being touched or with sights or sounds. Speech therapy improves communication skills.

Autism is a complex condition that can cause various degrees of impairment and affect a person's life in many different areas. Early intervention is important and there are many types of treatment and resources available to help. Finding the right treatment for yourself or your loved one can help them function more independently and live a fulfilling life. Autistic people can live a fulfilling life despite having autism. They have both strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else.

Being on the Autism Spectrum does not preclude them from ever having relationships, making friends, or finding employment. However, they might require additional assistance with these matters. Everyone has different strengths, interests, needs and challenges. Just like with any other friend, colleague or acquaintance, learning these are the first step to positive relationships and communication.

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This Blog on 'Autism Spectrum Disorder' has been contributed by Nishita, who is currently pursuing B.A. Hons. in Psychology from the University of Lucknow. She is keen to learn about the complexities of the human mind and broaden her knowledge in the field of Psychology She is looking forward to becoming a Clinical Psychologist.


She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.