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Autism: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Diane Luke
Senior Editor, TipsHire

Children with autism are different! Characteristics of all children with autism are problems of communication and language, socialization and repetitive behaviors. Autism is developing since the fetal stage of the children evolution and recent studies concluded that the autism risk is linked to high folate levels in pregnancy.

Autism Symptoms

A child with autism may have skills of personal autonomy, very well established cognitive level according to age, but not respond to name, shows a delay in language development, eye contact is nonexistent, disregard for bystanders, high resistance to change, and can oppose to any tasks given by an adult refusing to interact.

Other children may experience major difficulties in maintaining focus and may refuse eye contact, and may present difficulties in understanding language and expressive difficulties in verbal expression.

Autism often is accompanied by intellectual impairment, the latest research in the field showing that over 60% of autistic children have IQs below 50, and only 6% have IQ above 85.

Attention deficit can occur because the area of interest of an autistic child is restricted and sometimes different from that considered to be adequate. Attention to details is required for them and they carry out tasks according to their own criteria. The autistic child demonstrates that he knows how to respond to certain requirements in terms of a strong motivation.

Language disorders are found in all children with autism and refer to verbal language, gestures, or pointing. Speech and communication are done through nonverbal reactions including gestures, facial expressions, and posture. The autistic child does not use his voice to attract attention. An autistic child can repeat a series of words for a long time or emit sounds that are senseless and may have difficulties in using words to express a request or a feeling.

At birth, the child is apparently normal, without physical or neurological abnormalities.

This disorder is installed before the age of 2-3 years but can be detected even in the first year of life. Autism can be detected earlier and it manifests as it follows:

  • lack of anticipatory movements when taken in arms
  • no smile as a response to the mother’s smile
  • apathy and disinterest for the people who surround them
  • no attention to social stimuli
  • do not get into a routine communication with others

Difficulties in the communication of the children with autism also refer to the fact that they don’t stretch their arms and body ‘asking’ to be held in arms and hugged, but present various forms of mimicry to express discomfort (when wet, dirty or when hungry).

Towards the people surrounding them, the autistic children can manifest a total disinterest, though sometimes they are attracted by clothes or objects wore or used by the people around them. In social relationships, autistic children fail to establish emotional connections.

Children with autism show discontinuities in development, and for example, they can learn poems with dozens of verses, but they can not communicate using their own phrases or words.

Causes of autism

Even if specialists were not able to discover the exact elements that underlie the occurrence of autism, causes that are supposed to be responsible for the presence of autism disorder may include:

  • chromosomal abnormalities
  • use of antidepressants in the first 3 months of pregnancy
  • nutritional deficiency in early pregnancy
  • age of the mother
  • rainy climate
  • low birth weight and neonatal anemia
  • some maternal infections during pregnancy (such as rubella)
  • exposure to chemical pollutants during pregnancy
  • lack of folic acid
  • increased air pollution
  • brain oxygen deprivation at birth
  • premature birth
  • macrocephaly (20% of cases of autism)
  • intrauterine fetal exposure to large amounts of testosterone increases the risk of autism

Diagnosing of autism

The autism diagnosing is done by studying the symptoms presented by the kids that are supposedly autistic. A specialist can conclude positive or negative regarding this disorder, upon consulting and observing the behavior of the kid.

Treatments for autism

In most cases, children with autism get the best results after structured specialized treatments. A treatment that will focus on improving communication, social, behavioral, adaptive and learning abilities of the child will be most successful. The main goal of treatment is to maximize the child’s ability to function by reducing the symptoms of autism and support child development:

  • Occupational therapy and physiotherapy help improve the deficiencies of coordination and motor skills, but also to easily manage processing and sensory information. Also, occupational therapy focuses specifically on the functionality of acquisition activities.
  • Medication is commonly used to treat behavioral problems, depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Many children with autism also suffer from other medical conditions such as sleep disorders, hyperactivity, irritability, hysteria, limited food preferences, seizures, and gastrointestinal manifestations. Their treatment can improve their attention, energy, learning ability, and behavioral problems. However, there are no medications that can cure autism spectrum disorder or core symptoms of the disease.
  • Speech therapy is essential for children suffering from communication skills.
  • Early intensive behavioral intervention implies the involvement of the entire family of a child with close collaboration with the team of professionals, mostly specialized in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. Therapies for behavioral problems and communication difficulties can address social, language, and behavior manifestations associated with the autism spectrum disorders. Some programs can focus on learning new skills.

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