What Is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects information processing in multiple ways. People with autism have difficulties with social and communication skills. They have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors. They also tend to experience sensitivity or discomfort from sensory stimulation such as certain sights or sounds.
Because autism’s symptoms vary greatly, the condition is said to exist on a spectrum, referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger’s syndrome is a condition that is considered to be “high functioning” autism.
Autism usually manifests by age two. The condition is diagnosed four times more frequently in males than in females, according to the DSM-5, although women are often overlooked and misdiagnosed. The frequency of diagnosis has surged over the past 20 years; it is not clear whether the incidence is truly increasing, whether experts are more alert to it, or whether the diagnosis has shifted to include lesser degrees of impairment.
There is no proof that vaccines cause autism, although there is some evidence that environmental toxins play a role. There is no cure for autism, nor is one universally sought: Many people argue that autism should not be framed as a medical condition in need of amelioration. For those on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum, targeted practices and therapies can help alleviate symptoms. Symptoms may also ease over the years.
What Are the Characteristics of Autism?
The condition manifests before age three and can be particularly baffling and frustrating because some affected children appear to develop normally until the onset of the disorder. While the severity of symptoms varies greatly, there are invariably impairments to social and communication skills. (Some children with autism do not talk at all and remain mute throughout life), Children with autism also show restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.
Parents may notice that their infant avoids eye contact or doesn’t respond, and it may be difficult for them to form emotional bonds and parental attachment. Children with autism have unusual responses to sensory experiences and may be highly sensitive to certain sounds, textures, tastes, or smells. They may have deficits in motor coordination and poor muscle tone.
Autistic children exhibit many kinds of repetitive behaviors early in life, such as hand flapping, body rocking, and making sounds. They may arrange or stack objects over and over again. Some children inflict injury to themselves by repeated actions such as hand biting and head banging. They show an early preference for unvarying routines of everyday life.
No one fully understands what causes autism. The number of children diagnosed with the disorder has increased significantly since the turn of the millennium, but experts are not sure whether that reflects an improvement in diagnostic awareness or a true increase in prevalence.
Research shows that genetics is a factor, because people who have a sibling with autism are more likely to have autism themselves. Autism is also more likely in individuals who have an older parent. Very low birth weight is also a risk factor, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and ASD occurs more frequently in people with some genetic conditions, such as Fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.