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What is autism spectrum disorder?
by Storyteller. May 1st 2014, 12:54 PM

What is autism spectrum disorder?
By Cassie (Idyllic.)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a mental condition that usually presents itself within the first two or three years of one’s life. ASD reduces brain development and functioning. For someone with this condition, communication and other social interaction can be extremely challenging. ASD is normally diagnosed at two or three years old; however, new research is allowing children to be diagnosed at as young as six months old. Although there are common early indicators of ASD in a toddler, additional symptoms may develop as time progresses.

The majority of the warning signs relate to a child's failure to meet the typical milestones of a developing baby or toddler. Amongst the most common signs include little to no eye contact, unusual or inappropriate gestures and facial expressions. A child may or may not wave goodbye, for instance, as they are unsure of how to conduct themselves when interacting with other people. In addition, hand flapping and body rocking are quite frequently seen in these children. These behaviors, along with symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (e.g., the urge to line objects up in a particular manner), can be seen in children with ASD. Lastly, obtaining obsessive interests and knowledge of one particular topic in the later years can also serve as a warning sign of autism.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) encompasses three different diagnoses: Asperger syndrome (AS), Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and autistic disorder (AD). Asperger syndrome (AS) is occasionally viewed as a form of high-functioning autism, since individuals with this disorder do not experience a significant delay in language development. Someone with AS may have difficulty socializing with other people and may exhibit restrictive or repetitive behaviors, also known as RRBs. People who have AS may develop anxiety or depression due to these difficulties in socializing and complications resulting from RRBs. Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is a diagnosis that may be used when a person does not meet all of the criteria for other pervasive developmental disorders. Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two children with PDD-NOS are alike in their symptoms and abilities. Autistic disorder (AD) is diagnosed when a child is severely impaired with communication and other interaction. People with AD often struggle with other debilitating problems such as seizures and intellectual disabilities. As mentioned before, abilities depend on each and every child. Some children will be able to hold a job and live on their own eventually, whilst others may be in diapers and remain nonverbal for their entire lives. This occurs in childhood disintegrative disorder, a pervasive developmental disorder that does not fall under the umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Children who have this rare disorder develop normally until the age of two. After age two, these children show a loss of learned skills.

Theories of what causes ASD can lead to hot debates that often leave people feeling defeated. Although there currently is no known cause for ASD, research has suggested several probable influences that are related to biological and environmental factors. These factors are parental age at conception, maternal illnesses, and problems during childbirth, specifically when oxygen to the baby is restricted. There are some risk factors to watch out for such as children who have older parents, as well as babies who are born prematurely or that have a low birth weight. Relatives of those with ASD have an increased chance of having it as well. Additionally, families who have one child with ASD are at risk for having another affected child.

It is estimated that a child is diagnosed with ASD every fifteen minutes. That's ninety-six children each day. Hopefully, researchers will be able to determine the cause(s) for ASD and develop a cure to help these children and their families lead the lives that they deserve. However, in the meantime, it's a good idea to remember that people affected with ASD are people too. Although the rate at which children are being diagnosed with ASD is growing, ASD itself is still misunderstood. From the lack of education, people tend to view those with ASD in a negative way for not being typically developed. It's important to educate others about ASD so they are aware the next time they see someone affected in their community. April may be Autism Awareness month, but we should be aware all 365 days of the year!
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autism, disorder, spectrum

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