What Do We Know Now About Autism?

Parents are there for their children, to help them grow, develop and navigate the world. And parents of children with autism are no different, but they are faced with a unique set of challenges.

Most likely, you know someone who has autism or who is a parent of a child with autism. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new findings that 1 in 68 children in the United States has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex neuro-developmental disorders. These disorders are characterized by challenges related to:

  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Restrictive or repetitive behaviors and interests

People with autism may also experience other difficulties, including medical issues, differences in coordination and muscle tone, sleep disturbances, altered eating habits, anxiety or disordered sensory perceptions.

But what causes autism? Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been “we have no idea.” But research is now finding some of the answers.

We now know that there is no one cause of autism, just as there is no one type of autism. It is important to know that the CDC supports the conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism rates in children.

A Struggle to Communicate
Trouble connecting with others is one of the hallmark signs of autism spectrum disorders. Even those who can speak often struggle to understand others or make themselves understood.

Although autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development, the most obvious signs and symptoms tend to emerge between two and three years of age. Often parents are the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviors, such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways.

Sometimes an autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed later in life, often in relation to learning, social or emotional difficulties.

Parents of infants and toddlers should stay alert for language-related delays. They’re among the first signs of autism. After diagnosis, techniques used in autism therapy can also help at home. Each case is different. The best way to learn about your child’s needs is to participate in his or her treatment. Ask the therapists questions and listen to their advice.

Treatment Options
There is no cure for ASD, however, doctors and researchers are still working to find out which treatments work best for each child. In the meantime, early intervention can make school and life easier for most kids with autism. Therefore, it is essential that you talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problem. Some children may also benefit from behavioral therapy or medications.

Look for a qualified developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, or child psychologist or psychiatrist to guide your child’s treatment. Be sure to check with your specialist before trying an alternative therapy, such as a special diet or supplements.

Additional Health Problems
Autism often goes hand in hand with other disorders. For example, many children with autism can’t sleep  well, experience seizures or struggle with digestive troubles. Others develop anxiety, depression or other psychological conditions.

Your child’s doctor should treat these conditions and work with you and your child to manage autism. If your child has specific needs, consider adding a specialist in another field to the treatment team. For instance, a gastroenterologist can help with stomach issues.

Do you have a child with autism? Share your tips and tricks with others in the Connect community by logging in and commenting below.

Sources: Autismspeaks.org; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Last review: 4/11/19

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