Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities. A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment. ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels.
However, boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls. Even as infants, children with ASD may seem different, especially when compared to other children their own age. They may become overly focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, and fail to engage in typical babbling with their parents.
In other cases, children may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
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The severity of ASD can vary greatly and is based on the degree to which social communication, insistence of sameness of activities and surroundings, and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the daily functioning of the individual. Social impairment and communication difficulties Many people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly challenging.
Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact with other people, and only interact with others to achieve specific goals.
Often children with ASD do not understand how to play or engage with other children and may prefer to be alone. People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate. Some children with ASD may have delayed speech and language skills, may repeat phrases, and give unrelated answers to questions. In addition, people with ASD can have a hard time using and understanding non-verbal cues such as gestures, body language, or tone of voice.
For example, young children with ASD might not understand what it means to wave goodbye. People with ASD may also speak in flat, robot-like or a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking. Repetitive and characteristic behaviors Many children with ASD engage in repetitive movements or unusual behaviors such as flapping their arms, rocking from side to side, or twirling.
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They may become preoccupied with parts of objects like the wheels on a toy truck. Children may also become obsessively interested in a particular topic such as airplanes or memorizing train schedules. Many people with ASD seem to thrive so much on routine that changes to the daily patterns of life — like an unexpected stop on the way home from school — can be very challenging.
Significant mental health problems can and do occur in young children.
Some children may even get angry or have emotional outbursts, especially when placed in a new or overly stimulating environment. Certain known genetic disorders are associated with an increased risk for autism, including Fragile X syndrome which causes intellectual disability and tuberous sclerosis which causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and other vital organs — each of which results from a mutation in a single, but different, gene.
Recently, researchers have discovered other genetic mutations in children diagnosed with autism, including some that have not yet been designated as named syndromes. While each of these disorders is rare, in aggregate, they may account for 20 percent or more of all autism cases. People with ASD also have a higher than average risk of having epilepsy.
Children whose language skills regress early in life — before age 3 — appear to have a risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. About 20 to 30 percent of children with ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. Additionally, people with both ASD and intellectual disability have the greatest risk of developing seizure disorder. ASD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps. Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by clinicians based on symptoms, signs, and testing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders.
Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at and month well-child visits. If screening instruments indicate the possibility of ASD, a more comprehensive evaluation is usually indicated. A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose and treat children with ASD.
The team members will conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing. Because hearing problems can cause behaviors that could be mistaken for ASD, children with delayed speech development should also have their hearing tested.
Scientists believe that both genetics and environment likely play a role in ASD. There is great concern that rates of autism have been increasing in recent decades without full explanation as to why. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Imaging studies of people with ASD have found differences in the development of several regions of the brain. Studies suggest that ASD could be a result of disruptions in normal brain growth very early in development.
These disruptions may be the result of defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other. Autism is more common in children born prematurely.
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Environmental factors may also play a role in gene function and development, but no specific environmental causes have yet been identified. The theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved. Multiple studies have shown that vaccination to prevent childhood infectious diseases does not increase the risk of autism in the population. Twin and family studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism. Identical twin studies show that if one twin is affected, then the other will be affected between 36 to 95 percent of the time.
NIMH » Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are a number of studies in progress to determine the specific genetic factors associated with the development of ASD. In families with one child with ASD, the risk of having a second child with the disorder also increases.
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Many of the genes found to be associated with autism are involved in the function of the chemical connections between brain neurons synapses. Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to increased susceptibility. Materials provided by University of Surrey. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. Story Source: Materials provided by University of Surrey. ScienceDaily, 22 October University of Surrey. Social stigma contributes to poor mental health in the autistic community.
Retrieved October 6, from www.
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