What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism Spectrum refers to a range of conditions that are classified as neurodevelopmental disorders. The term “Spectrum” signifies that individuals with this disorder can exhibit a range of symptoms that vary in magnitude and severity (Spielman et al. 587). Nevertheless, most ASD patients usually display problems with social interaction and communication, and restricted activities, interests, and behavior patterns. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) recognizes ASD as one of the most prevalent neurological disorders in the United States with an average prevalence rate of one in 59 children (Autism Speaks). Although incidence varies for each disorder in the spectrum, autism is a universal disorder and major health concern in the US and the rest of the world.
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Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by two categories of symptoms. The first comprises irrevocable problems with social interaction and communication in different settings (NIMH). Individuals with ASD may have difficulties understanding and using eye contact, intonation, facial expressions, and gestures while in contact with other persons, even from a very young age. In fact, a larger percentage of children with autism normally show no emotional or social reciprocity and, more often than not, do not share their happiness or seek comfort with parents. Additionally, they do not engage in social activities with other children of the same age, and even if they do, they normally have difficulties when communicating and keeping friends. This is typically due to delays or lack of development in linguistic skills and inability to compensate using nonverbal means of communication. Some children may try to use a single word, many incomprehensible words, or a stack of repetitive phrases, but attempts of communication are habitually futile.
The second category of symptoms covers restricted ranges of behaviors, activities, and interests that display in a stereotypic or repetitive way (Psychiatry.Org). A child diagnosed with autism may concentrate intensively on an activity such as rolling a ball on the floor or spinning a toy wheel but fail to engage in other varying games of role play and pretend. Fixations on particular objects and complex routines are also very common, and departure from such routines can lead to episodes of outbursts and rage. Other symptoms include over under-sensitivity or over-sensitivity to certain odors, sounds, touches, episodes of hyperactivity, and eating and sleeping disorders, none of which are required for the diagnosis of autism. Indeed, physicians diagnose ASD by examining a child’s developmental and behavioral patterns.
What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?
The exact cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder remains unknown to date, but researchers hypothesize that genetic factors, environmental triggers, and secondary health conditions may have a role to play in etiology. Genetic predisposition is commonly cited as a basis for the development of the disorder wherein certain genes are associated with increased vulnerability (Marshall et al. 480). Researchers have identified select cases where ASD runs in families. For instance, younger siblings of individuals with ASD can develop the condition. Nevertheless, researchers have not linked any specific genes to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Another causal theory is that individuals with genetic susceptibility to ASD can only suffer from the disorder in the presence of certain ecological factors. Potential factors comprise premature birth and exposure to alcohol and certain drugs (Szatmari 175). A few studies have found evidence of an association between ASD and certain viruses such as measles, rubella, mumps, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis, as well as chemicals like valproic acid and thalidomide. Even so, these causes account for a very small percentage of all cases.
How can Autism Spectrum Disorder be Treated?
Given that Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long condition, there is no known cure as yet. However, individuals with autism can experience better wellness and developmental outcomes with early and well-planned interventions that are tailored according to personal needs (Won, Hyejung, Won Mah, and Eunjoon). One primary goal of early interventions is to help an individual acquire functional communication. Approaches involving education programs should concentrate on knowledge about the child and their needs as autistic patients. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies are commonly integrated with structured teaching methods to prepare specially-tailored educational programs for autistic children (Mulick). Early identification and assessment should be succeeded by the provision of curate information to concerned individuals, including members of the family and guardians.
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Integration of educational strategies and collaboration with the child’s family, along with other supportive measures are the long-term foundation of a child’s development. Specially adapted education systems, such as special nursery schools, are critical prerequisites. Parents and guardians should ensure that the home environment and daily activities are specially adapted for the child. Adolescents and adults with autism may require access to educational measures to help increase personal skills and enhance independence and participation in varied activities. Highly-functioning individuals may need different programs and auxiliary assistance when organizing their education schedules and accessing various activities. Since ASD is a long-term disorder, adults should receive extensive support and assistance for the rest of their lives. Nevertheless, some individuals can become impressively independent, especially with the help of early interventions.
In conclusion, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of symptoms and levels of impairment. Although symptoms are not precisely defined, they exhibit in two categories namely problems with social interaction and communication, and restricted behavior patterns. There are no current causes of the condition, but genetic and environmental factors are believed to have a role. Autism Spectrum Disorder has no immediate treatment and often requires implementation of personalized long-term management strategies that include behavior therapy.
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