What Is Autism?

What Is Autism?

  • Autism is a disorder related to brain development that impairs language, social communication, and behavior.
  • Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) is a broad condition affecting a range of domains. The symptoms of Autism can vary from person to person significantly, ranging from mild to severe. There can be various combinations of symptoms in a person with Autism.
  • Autism has a high prevalence. According to WHO, about one in 100 children has Autism worldwide. It is more common in boys than girls. Generally, it is diagnosed in the early years of life by two to three years of age. 
  • There is no single cause of Autism. Autism results from a combination of factors- genetics and environmental factors leading to alteration in the brain structure and functioning.
  • Probable risk factors of Autism are- Advanced parent age of either parent, Autism running in the family, complications at the time of birth, and complications during pregnancy.
  • Symptoms of Autism-
    • Lack of eye contact.
    • Language impairment.
    • Loud sounds, bright lights, and touch are overwhelming.
    • The child has an excessive attachment to a specific toy or item.
    • Repetitive body movements like hand flapping, rocking, spinning, or jumping.
    • Avoiding physical contact like hugging.
    • The child fails to respond to his name.
    • Intellectual impairment may or may not be present.
  • Deficits in social communication-
    • Difficult to respond to social interactions.
    • Understanding and using non-verbal communication like facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures become tough.
    • Echolalia- It is a term for exactly repeating words, sounds, or sentences over and over again.
    • Making friends, sharing toys, and playing with peers is difficult. Usually, play alone or in parallel play.
    • Alteration of routine disturbs the autistic child. It is difficult for them to cope with the changes. They may resort to aggressive behavior.
  • Not all the symptoms are present in every autistic child.
  • Diagnosis of Autism depends on the developmental history and communication and behavioral responses in various settings like home, school, and daycare.
  • Depending on learning, thinking, and problem-solving skills, people with ASD require different levels of support for their functioning. According to DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association), there are three levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD).
    • Level 1- Milder form in which there is difficulty in initiating social interaction. Also, the skills of planning and organization are affected. The person can live a relatively independent life with minimum support.
    • Level 2- Characterized by limited social interaction and repetitive behavior. Coping with change is challenging. Moderate support is required.
    • Level 3-The most severe form of ASD. Social communication is severely impacted and requires maximum support.
  • Anxiety, Depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder(ADHD) are more common in autistic people.
  • Early diagnosis is crucial to providing appropriate care and support. Early intervention help with positive outcomes and improved quality of life. Significant improvements in growth and skill development are possible with early intervention.
  • Autism affects different persons differently. Everyone has different needs and different strengths. Doctors, Physical therapists, Occupational therapists, Speech therapists, Special educators, and Psychologists have a crucial role in treating ASD.
  • Behavioral Therapies aim at improving social skills and communication. It also focuses on reducing problematic behavior using motivation and rewards.
  • Sensory Integration therapy focuses on improving response to sensory stimuli by using various sensory and motor activities.
  • Being autistic doesn’t mean that one can not lead a regular life. It is just that for challenging tasks, support has to be there. The level of support varies depending upon the level of Autism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s