What is Autism and What are the Symptoms?


What is Autism Disorder?

According to AUTISM SPEAKS®, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.

I think it’s also important to see the international numbers. I might consider writing another post to dissect what the other countries are doing to keep their numbers so low (i.e. Finland, Norway and Belgium).

The autism rates in other nations:

There are a lot of factors that may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, sleep disorders or seizures, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.

Although, there is not one type of autism but many subtypes, the condition is mostly influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Autism is a spectrum disorder which means each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Those dealing with autism learn differently; the way they think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support every day, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live completely independently.

What is Autism and What Causes it?

By now, you may have a better idea of what autism is – and so, I hope. I’ll continue throughout this post to share more to enlighten your understanding which will also be a learning lesson for me as well. Prior to writing this post, I knew very little about Autism.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk about the causes of autism. In the most recent, vaccinations have been the debate in terms of whether it plays a role as a cause. As a mom, since I don’t know for sure I’ve been proactive in terms of conducting my own research and making my own decision whether to have my kids vaccinated. It’s a personal choice but also one that needs to be made by you not the government or the school district.

Although there’s been no direct link between vaccines and autism, the debate continues between concerned parents and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Autism Symptoms Checklist

The following quote speaks volume and it covers any stereotypes that may exist concerning autism.

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Dr. Stephen Shore

Although I’m completely in agreement with the above quote, I would not be fulfilling my duty as a writer if I didn’t list some kind of benchmark to go by if you are looking for a reference guide to decide if your child is autistic.

Again, this is not a list to say that every person on the spectrum will show all these signs, if any, of those behaviors. Individuals with ASD have different ways of learning or reacting to things. Here is a list of signs that I hope will encourage you to have your child(ren) evaluated.

• Have difficulty understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings

• Have difficulty relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all

• Seem to be unaware when people talk to them, but might respond to other sounds

• Seem to be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them

• Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or sometimes repeat words or phrases in place of normal  language

• Have difficulty expressing their needs using typical words or motions

• Not play “pretend” games (for example, pretending a box is a spaceship, a bird or a plane, etc.)

• They prefer a routine, seem to have trouble adapting when a routine changes

While there is no specific reason that can be contributed to the cause of ASD, it is widely accepted that abnormalities in brain structure and/or function is a factor.

According to the CDC, Autism does occur more frequently in individuals with Fragile X Syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis, and untreated Phenylketonuria.

Last year (2018), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued its ADDM Autism Prevalence Report that indicated that 1 in every 59 children born in the United States will be diagnosed to be on the spectrum.

Sadly, there is no known cure for Autism; however, when/if diagnosed early, intervention treatments can help improve development with certain symptoms. Some intervention treatments may include therapy to help with speech, social interaction, music therapy, or sensory development.

Tips for Parents of Autistic Children

As parents, we spend a lot of time thinking about our child/children future but even more so when you have a child who has an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD diagnosis.

Apart from the medical care and therapies that you may be involved with for your child, there are other ways to handle the everyday things which will make a significant difference.

Here are a few suggestions that can help improve the quality of life for both, the parent and child.

1. Focus on the positive. Most children respond well in a positive environment. Recognize when they do something well and find ways to reward them (i.e. extra playtime, a quick outing or simply a sticker).

2. Allow time. Since you’ll probably try a variety of techniques, and treatments as you decide what’s best for your child. Don’t get discouraged! It might take time for your child to respond positively to a particular method.

3. Be consistent with a schedule. People on the spectrum work best with routines. Allow them to practice what they learn from treatment by consistently guiding and interacting with them.

4. Schedule for playtime. Connecting through activities that seem like fun without an education twist or therapy can help your child open up and bond with you more.

5. Plan everyday activities with your child. Take them with you as you run your daily errands. A trip to the supermarket, the mall or the post office can help them get used to their surroundings or the community they live in.

6. Join a support group. Either online or face-to-face, getting the support of others can really be a tremendous help. It’s an outlet that will help you connect with other parents who are dealing with similar challenges and a way to share information and get advice.

What is Autism Awareness?

Autism awareness brings attention to the condition by allowing folks to start the conversation. April is the month dedicated to Autism and during that month, awareness is widely spread to encourage support, more research, treatment and donations.

If you are interested in getting involved then please sign up on the Autism Society website by signing up for the newsletter and updates at the Autism Society site. Also, on to the website you’ll find a list of local events and activities.

What Defines the Person?

I hope this post has given you new insights to this condition. Autism does not define anyone. It is simply a complex neurobehavioral condition with a range of symptoms. I found a couple of quotes to share with you as I close this post.

“Autism can’t define me. I define autism.” Kerry Magro

“Kids have to be exposed to different things in order to develop. A child’s not going to find out he likes to play a musical instrument if you never exposed him to it…” Temple Grandin

Overall, use all of your resources so that you don’t get burned out. Look into getting another qualified caregiver to care for your child for a period of time in order to take a short break. It’s important to find ways to take breaks and restore your own health so that you can be at 100% for your child/family.

Be well!!

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