Autism is a complex disorder that makes it hard to communicate and interact with others. This condition affects one in 1000 people, being characterized by a “triad of impairments” in communication, non-verbal behavior, and social interaction. Also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it affects the way nerve cells and their synapses connect. This leads to restricted and repetitive behaviors, self-injury, poor motor planning, stereotypy, and language impairments. Most children diagnosed with autism have problems using social skills to connect with other people.
Types of Autism Disorders
According to the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, there are five main types of autism spectrum disorders, including:
Autistic disorder is the most common form of the disease. This condition affects a child’s behavior and interests as well as his communication and social interaction skills. Each patient will have his own pattern of autism and display different symptoms.
The second most common form of autism is Asperger’s syndrome. Children diagnosed with this condition are highly intelligent, but have the same social issues as those with autistic disorders, including communication problems, unusual rituals, and repetitive behaviors.
Rett syndrome is less common and affects primarily girls. These children start developing normally, but lose their social and communication skills gradually. Atypical autism or pervasive developmental disorder causes autistic behaviors that don’t fit into any other category. Childhood disintegrative disorder, the rarest form of autism, is not entirely understood by scientists. Those suffering from this condition develop normally, but lose some or all of their social and communication skills over time.
What Causes Autism?
The exact cause of autism is unknown. Health experts believe that it may be caused by genetic factors. Exposure to certain chemicals or drugs during pregnancy may increase the risk of giving birth to an autistic child. Other risk factors include maternal metabolic conditions such as obesity or diabetes, alcohol consumption during pregnancy, vaccines, pesticides, smoking, and prenatal stress.
Most cases of autism seem to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors influencing early brain development. Some children are able to live normal everyday lives, while others require permanent medical treatment and ongoing support. About 40 percent of patients have average or above-average intelligence, which compensates their lack of social and communication skills.
What’s Different about People with Autism?
Autism triggers a wide range of symptoms that may affect a child’s life. People suffering from this disorder may seem inflexible or rigid, avoid eye contact, and display repetitive behaviors such as lining things up, hand flipping, or spinning. Some are sensitive to light and have abnormal fears. Others are able to understand and memorize complex concepts. This disorder is often accompanied by sleep problems, malnutrition, seizures, depression, anxiety, mood swings, and gastrointestinal problems.
Parents whose children are suffering from autism can join support groups and learn about this disorder from specialists like Lindsey Stone and her team of behavioral analysts. If your child is autistic, you’ll have to act differently around him. It’s important to use direct, concrete phrases, speak calmly, and avoid words or sentences that have more than one meaning. Be aware that your child may exhibit unexplained behaviors such as arranging objects in stacks or rolling his head.