Autism: Understanding the Disorder


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What Causes Autism?

The most recent edition DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, , redefined the diagnostic criteria for ASD, which was previously regarded as three distinct diagnoses i. The DSM-5, however, classifies ASD as a single disorder characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction, in addition to restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

The presentation and severity of symptoms vary widely among individuals with ASD. Early signs of ASD may be observed in an infant as young as 6 months old.

Some common signs and symptoms of ASD include:. If you would like CARD to refer you to an appropriate diagnostician, contact The factors contributing to increases in reported rates of ASD are not fully understood. While increased rates may be partially explained by improved screening and diagnostic practices, researchers are also exploring the roles of various environmental and genetic risk factors.

What is autism?

In addition, boys are more likely to develop ASD than girls. There is no single known cause for ASD. Rather, evidence suggests that there are many factors involved in the development of ASD.

Autism: What to Look For

Researchers are actively exploring the roles of various genetic and environmental risk factors. Genetics have been found to play a significant role in the development of ASD. Research conducted on twins has found genetics to play a sizable role in the development of ASD. Additionally, rates of ASD are higher among individuals with various genetic disorders, including fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.

Autism differs from person to person in severity and combinations of symptoms. There is a great range of abilities and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder — no two children appear or behave the same way. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and often change over time.


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Characteristics of autism spectrum disorder fall into two categories. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to reducing the symptoms of autism and improving the quality of life for people with autism and their families. There is no medical test for autism.

What Is Autism?

It is diagnosed based on observing how the child talks and acts in comparison to other children of the same age. Trained professionals typically diagnose autism by talking with the child and asking questions of parents and other caregivers. Under federal law, any child suspected of having a developmental disorder can get a free evaluation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for developmental disorders at well-child preventive visits before age three.

If you have concerns that your infant or toddler is not developing normally, it is important to bring that concern to your primary care provider. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC have identified possible red flags for autism spectrum disorder in young children, including:. If there is a strong concern that your child is showing possible signs of autism, then a diagnostic evaluation should be performed. This typically involves an interview and play-based testing with your child done by a psychologist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, child psychiatrist or other providers.

Scientists do not clearly understand what causes autism spectrum disorder. Several factors probably contribute to autism, including genes a child is born with or environmental factors. A child is at greater risk of autism if there is a family member with autism.

Autism - Understanding the Disorder | Gary B. Mesibov | Springer

Research has shown that it is not caused by bad parenting, and it is not caused by vaccines. While children are not typically cured nor do they outgrow autism, studies have shown that symptoms can improve with early diagnosis and treatment. There is no single treatment for autism. Treatments can include intensive skill-building and teaching educational sessions, known as applied behavior analysis ABA , and many more interactive, child-centered versions of behavior treatments. Also, some children and adults with ASD have other kinds of psychological difficulties at some point in their lives, such as anxiety, ADHD, disruptive behaviors or depression.

These difficulties can be treated with therapy or with medication. There are currently no medications that directly treat the core features of ASD.

Mental illness

In addition to treatment, regular and special education classrooms can be changed to help students with autism. Many students with autism can function better if the day is consistent and predictable. It is also helpful if information is presented so the student can learn by seeing as well as hearing and if students get to play and learn with nondisabled peers.

Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder
Autism: Understanding the Disorder Autism: Understanding the Disorder

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