What is autism?

What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder related to brain development which causes problems with behavior and the ability to communicate or interact with other people.  The word spectrum indicates that there is a wide variation in both the type and the severity of symptoms that different people experience.  Although there is no “cure” for ASD, there are treatments that can improve a person’s symptoms and their ability to function.  Routine screening for ASD is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all children.  This is a big topic, so it will take more than one week to cover.

What are the symptoms of ASD?

Remember that the symptoms can vary between individuals.  Here are some of the possible symptoms:

  • Making little, or inconsistent, eye contact
  • Failing to respond to someone calling their name or other attempts to gain their attention
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or may speak in a sing-song or very monotone manner
  • Repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand gestures
  • Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
  • A mismatch between what is being said by the person and their facial expressions, movements, or gestures
  • Difficulty understanding the actions or emotions of other people
  • Repeating certain behaviors or actions, such as repeating the same word or phrase
  • Getting upset by slight changes in routine
  • Having an overly focused, or intense, interest in certain topics or details of objects
  • Being less or more sensitive than most people to things such as light, noise, temperature, textures, etc.

Individuals with ASD may also have strengths that others do not.  These can include:

  • Excellence in math, science, music, or art
  • Being a strong visual or auditory learner
  • Being able to learn things in great detail and remember information for long periods of time

What causes ASD?

Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact cause of ASD.  It is a complex disorder and there are likely a number of causes.  The scientific information does indicate that there is a genetic component, although that genetic link is not well understood and requires more study.  Here are some risk factors for ASD:

  • Male sex – Boys are about 4 times more likely to develop ASD than girls
  • Family history – Having one child with autism increases the risk of having another child with ASD
  • Older age of parents – This is true for either mother or father
  • Extreme prematurity – Babies born before 26 weeks of gestation
  • Certain genetic conditions – Such as fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, tuberous sclerosis

There is NO link between vaccines and ASD.

The science is clear.  There has been extensive research done, which shows that there is no link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines.  Avoiding childhood vaccines can place your child at significant risk of serious diseases.

If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help.

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