Autism-Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Autism: Meaning, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.


Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a broad term used to describe a group of neuro-developmental conditions that affect how people communicate, interact and behave. Autism is lifelong and varies widely in symptoms and severity. Some people with autism may have intellectual disabilities, while others may have normal or above-average intelligence. Some may need a lot of support in their daily lives, while others may be able to live independently.

What causes autism?

The exact causes of autism are not fully understood, but researchers believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Some genes may make a person more susceptible to developing autism, especially if they are exposed to certain environmental triggers, such as infections, toxins or prenatal stress. However, no single gene or environmental factor can explain all cases of autism. Autism is not caused by vaccines, bad parenting or emotional trauma.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Symptoms of autism typically become evident during early childhood, between ages 12 and 24 months. However, some symptoms may appear earlier or later, depending on the individual. The main symptoms of autism are:

Problems with communication and social interaction. People with autism may have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings, understanding what others say or mean, making eye contact, using gestures and facial expressions, initiating and maintaining conversations, sharing interests and emotions, and developing friendships and relationships.

Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities. People with autism may have intense and narrow interests, such as specific topics, objects or routines. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, flapping, spinning or lining up things. They may be very sensitive or indifferent to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, lights, smells or textures. They may also have difficulty coping with changes or transitions in their environment or schedule.

The symptoms of autism can range from mild to severe and can vary from person to person. Some people with autism may have additional challenges, such as learning difficulties, attention problems, anxiety, depression, epilepsy or sleep disorders.

How is autism diagnosed?

There is no specific medical test to diagnose autism. Instead, a specialist who treats children with autism, such as a child psychiatrist or psychologist, pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician, will evaluate the child's development and behavior using various tools and criteria. The evaluation may include:

- Observing the child and asking the parents or caregivers about the child's social interactions, communication skills and behavior

- Giving the child tests covering hearing, speech, language, developmental level and social and behavioral issues

- Presenting structured social and communication interactions to the child and scoring the performance

- Using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association

- Involving other specialists in determining a diagnosis

- Recommending genetic testing to identify whether the child has a genetic disorder associated with autism

The diagnosis of autism is usually made by age 4, but some children may be diagnosed earlier or later. Early diagnosis is important because it can help the child access early intervention services that can improve their outcomes.

How is autism treated?

There is no cure for autism, but there are various treatments and interventions that can help people with autism maximize their potential and function better in their daily lives. The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms of autism and support the development and learning of the person with autism. The type and intensity of treatment will depend on the individual's needs and preferences.

Some of the common treatments and interventions for autism are:

- Behavior and communication therapies. These therapies aim to improve the social skills, communication skills and behavior of people with autism using various methods and strategies. One of the most widely used therapies is applied behavior analysis (ABA), which teaches new skills and reduces problem behaviors using positive reinforcement.

- Educational therapies. These therapies provide structured educational programs that are tailored to the individual's strengths and needs. They often involve a team of specialists who use various techniques to enhance learning and development.

- Medications. There are no medications that can treat autism itself, but some medications can help manage some of the associated symptoms or co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity or seizures. However, medications should be used with caution and under medical supervision.

- Complementary and alternative therapies. Some people with autism may benefit from complementary and alternative therapies that are not proven by scientific evidence but may offer some relief or improvement in some aspects of their well-being. These therapies include dietary interventions, supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy or music therapy.

The treatment for autism is usually lifelong and requires ongoing monitoring and adjustment. It is important to involve the person with autism and their family in the decision-making process and to respect their choices and preferences.

How can I support someone with autism?

If you know someone who has autism, you can support them by:

- Learning more about autism and how it affects them

- Being patient, respectful and empathetic

- Communicating clearly and simply

- Listening to their needs and preferences

- Encouraging their strengths and interests

- Providing structure and consistency

- Helping them cope with changes and challenges

- Seeking professional help when needed

- Advocating for their rights and inclusion

People with autism have unique abilities and perspectives that can enrich our society and culture. By supporting them, we can help them achieve their goals and live fulfilling lives.