What causes autism? Here’s what we know:
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that can affect the diagnosed in a variety of neurobehavioral ways. Being aware of the symptoms and causes of autism can lead to early possible prevention and intervention.
Types of autism
Those with autism were once diagnosed with the following types: Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, autistic disorder, and pervasive development disorder- not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). While those terms are still understood and accepted, there are new terms that the symptoms are now categorized as. They are as follows:
-autistic disorder associated with language challenges
-autistic disorder associated with intellectual challenges
-autistic disorder due to genetic or environmental factors
-autistic disorder that is connected to a mental, neurodevelopmental, or behavioral disorder
-autistic disorder accompanied by catatonia
Symptoms of autism
Symptoms and specifics might vary from child to child, but there are some that are consistent. Some of the most common symptoms include:
-having a hard time sharing emotions or interests
-difficulties carrying on a two-way conversation
-being fixated on one thing
-needing to follow a very strict routine
-trouble making or keeping eye contact
-repeating movements and motions, or speech patterns
If you notice any of these symptoms, or anything else out of the ordinary for your child that causes concern, speak with their doctor. Regardless of if it is autism or another issue, the earlier it is detected, the better.
The CDC reports that around 1 in 59 children have been diagnosed with autism, and that boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. For years, the causes of autism have been widely argued. Recently, a study has been conducted on what causes autism. It was completed on over 2 million people in five countries, the results of which might lay these arguments to rest.
Causes of autism
For years, there have been many theories about the causes of autism. The most common and long-lasting of these theories is that vaccinations provided by medical professionals are the cause. Others have included being exposed to pollution.
In truth, no one knows the exact cause of autism at this time. The data just does not provide enough information to say for certain that specific factors are definitely the causes. There are three things, however, that most research agrees on: Vaccines are not the cause, genetics play the biggest role in many cases, and a parent or caretaker’s behavior toward a child does not cause autism.
The results of this study point out how big of a factor genetics play on children with autism. In fact, it shows that around 80% of the risk is due to the genetic information passed along to the child. It is believed that combinations of specific genes that are passed on to the children increase the likelihood of that child developing autism. Unfortunately, the research does not answer a vital question: Which genes put people at the highest risk?
For an answer to that question, additional in-depth research will need to occur, and hopefully it will one day. For the time being, there are other possible causes of autism that are important to know. Other suspected risks include:
- Diet and infection during pregnancy
- Exposure to some medications during pregnancy
- Environmental exposure to heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins
- Being born to older parents
- Having a low birth weight
- Suffering from consistent viral infections
If someone in your family has shown potential signs of autistic behavior, or any of the above suspected risks have occurred, inform your pediatrician. Although these risks do not guarantee that a child will develop autism, it is always best to let the doctor know so they can take the necessary precautions.
Before starting any treatment, one has to be tested and diagnosed. Children are currently screened by their pediatricians. If any signs are noticed, the pediatrician will order further testing. These tests include behavioral evaluation, genetic testing, occupational therapy, and more. A group of people typically performs these tests, and the group includes psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and other therapists.
As of now, there is no cure for autism. There are, however, certain treatments that can help the child and the family. Some of these treatments include:
-cognitive behavior therapy
-social skills training
The type of treatments given will be decided according to the symptoms being suffered. They can help the child lighten the load of their symptoms. Autism does not have to mean a hard life. With these therapies and treatment, the diagnosed can learn to function in daily life.
Therapy and education can also help the family. Without this education and help, it can be difficult for families to live with an autistic child. Therapy can teach parents and other family members how to cope with autistic behavior, take care of themselves in the process, and not feel so helpless in trying to help their child. The parents being calmer and in more control can lower the stress level around the autistic child, so each part of the therapy supports another. Parents may also be taught how to use meditation techniques, weighted blankets, massages, and other alternative treatments.
Living with an autistic child can be challenging, but it is definitely not impossible. Dedication and support can make a very big difference. By educating yourself on the causes and symptoms of autism, you are already setting yourself up for success.