Autism

Autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD, is a developmental brain disorder that affects roughly one in 68 children in the United States. Autism is characterized by impaired speech and language, as well as delayed social skills. People with autism may also have cognitive issues along with problems with both fine and gross motor coordination. Conversely, some people on the autism spectrum are intellectually gifted, displaying advanced skills in the arts or math. Since the degree and severity of autism often varies greatly from person to person, no two cases look alike. Receiving early intervention can make a significant difference when it comes to communication, interacting with others, and school readiness skills. This can include speech services, occupational therapy and/or physical therapy.  

Symptoms

Autism spectrum disorder encompasses a wide array of symptoms and severity. For this reason, there’s no such thing as a “typical” case of autism. At its most basic level, autism is a brain disorder that impacts communication skills and social interactions. According to experts, the most common autism symptoms include: * Impaired communication and language including delays in receptive and/or expressive language skills * Difficulty maintaining eye contact * Difficulty initiating and/or participating in an appropriate social interaction * Cognitive delays * Problems with fine and/or gross motor coordination  

Causes for Autism

Autism is a deeply complex brain disorder with no known cause, though researchers are continually exploring the possibilities. Many experts believe that a genetic component is at play since many families with an autistic child demonstrate a family history of similar disabilities. Environmental factors may also play a role. According to the Autism Society, environmental toxins like mercury may increase autism risk. Vaccines have been under increased scrutiny in recent years due to their possible association with autism. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that this theory is not based on any reliable medical evidence.  

Treatment

A variety of treatment options are available to those with autism. As the medical community continues to learn more and more about the disorder, new interventions are becoming more accessible. Early intervention services can significantly improve an autistic child’s academic and social functioning. This approach is designed to target speech/language deficits, as well as both fine and gross motor coordination problems. Research has shown substantial gains among toddlers who receive early intervention. Upon diagnosis, some families opt for early intervention as early as 18 months of age. As children with autism grow older, most are eligible for in-school services including speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy. These services can be tremendously beneficial for children with autism. Upon entering high school, students with moderate to severe autism often receive vocational training to help prepare them to live as independently as possible as adults.

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