Did you know that autism affects 1 in 54 children? A bio-neurological condition, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that most often appears in toddlers around age three. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we’re shedding some light on ASD and answering your most frequently asked questions.
What is autism?
Autism is a disorder that affects the development of the brain. As a result, people with autism may be impacted in social interactions, communication skills, and cognitive and sensory functions. Because autism affects people in many different ways and severities, it’s classified as a spectrum disorder that traditionally scales from high-functioning to low-functioning. While these classifications help segment the disorder, there is no official diagnosis as the disorder varies greatly between people.
- High-functioning autism refers to an unofficial diagnosis that most often refers to people who can communicate and perform daily tasks independently without much complication or assistance.
- Low-functioning autism refers to an official medical diagnosis that sees people with impaired social and cognitive behaviors, little-to-no verbal communication and complex behavior.
What causes autism?
Currently, no singular known factor causes autism in children. While it’s believed to be a combination of genetic, biological and environmental abnormalities, researchers continue to explore possible factors that directly cause autism spectrum disorder.
Who develops autism?
Autism typically develops in children around the age of three, although some diagnoses can be made as early as 12 months. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, however, girls tend to experience more severe symptoms and go undiagnosed. To date, there is no known correlation between autism and race or region.
What are early warning signs of autism?
Currently, there is no official medical diagnostic test for ASD. Rather, doctors use screening protocols and behavior assessments to determine a diagnosis. While progression after initial diagnosis is normal for young children, early intervention is critical. Here are a few early ASD warning signs in children:
- Little-to-no verbal communication skills by 16 months
- Poor-to-no eye contact by 6 months
- Unusual attachment to toys or objects
- Limited sounds, smiles or facial expressions
- Difficulty understanding social cues or emotions
- Repetition of words or phrases
- Repetitive behaviors
While these are common symptoms for children, it’s important to know that the effect of autism varies greatly person-to-person. If your child is experiencing unusual behaviors, please contact your primary care provider.
Is autism treatable?
While there is no cure for ASD, there are many treatment and intervention services shown to improve common symptoms in children. Common treatments include behavior and communication therapies, occupational therapy, dietary improvement and more. Additionally, the use of prescribed medication has been shown to aid in energy levels, behavioral reactions, self-injurious behaviors, inability to focus and more.
NorthCrest is proud to offer a wide variety of healthcare services for autism screening and treatment plans, including Speech and Language Therapies, Primary Care, Neurology and more. To learn more about our services, schedule an appointment with a local NorthCrest provider online or by phone at 615-384-2411.