It’s been found that 1 in every 68 babies born in the United States is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), more commonly known as Autism. This is not a mental disability like some assume but a complex full-body developmental disability that affects different people with a varied spectrum of severity.
The most common symptoms of autism include difficulty making or keeping eye contact as well as executive functioning difficulties. According to the research, multiple factors can cause a baby to be born with ASD including environmental and genetic factors.
What we do know is that Autism has been found to be caused during the early stages of brain development which is why doctors recommend taking vitamin supplements before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of Autism.
Statistics show that around 40% of individuals with ASD have an IQ below 70 (Intellectual disability) and 25% can communicate nonverbally. However, many individuals have ASD and can live their lives with little to no disruption due to their condition. This broad spectrum of disability is the reason this condition is called Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Signs Of Autism:
The best way to tackle Autism and treat this condition is first to know the signs and symptoms. Many of these signs can indicate Autism or other issues which is why you should always take the child to get professionally screened for Autism before you jump to any conclusions.
For most children, signs of Autism start to appear after 24 months of age, but there are cases of symptoms being evident, even as early as the first few months.
Here is a table of the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder you should look out for but know that not every child will show some (or all) the signs.
|By Age (Months)||Signs Of Autism In Babies And Toddlers|
|6||No or limited eye contact|
|6||Lack of joyful or happy expressions towards others|
|9||No nonverbal communication like smiling or vocal sounds|
|12||No response to being called by their name|
|12||No nonverbal communication like waving, pointing or reaching|
|16||No spoke words|
|24||No understandable phrases|
|24||Regression of previously acquired skills or speech|
As for those individuals who are older and may have ASD, some of the signs to look for include:
- Has repetitive behavioral habits like rocking or flapping
- Repeating words or phrases again and again (echolalia)
- Changes in surroundings or routine upset the individual
- Intense or unusual reactions to smells, tastes, sounds, lights, and colors
- Preference to being alone
- Lack of eye contact
- Difficulty or delay in development of language skills
- Difficulty understanding feelings of others
Causes Of Autism:
If you have found some signs or symptoms of Autism in your child or loved one, you should get them screened by a medical professional to confirm the condition. Either way, most people wonder how it is that babies are affected by Autism.
Specific genes have found to increase the risk of the child developing Autism Spectrum Disorder. If a parent has one of these genes and passes it to the child, the risk of Autism increases. Note that the parent doesn’t have to be Autistic to carry the gene. There are also cases where genes change in the sperm, egg or early embryo which can increases risk of Autism.
The environmental factors that can increase the risk of a child having Autism have a much smaller chance than with genetic factors. But scientists have found that some environmental factors do affect the risk of ASD including:
- Advanced age of either parent
- Back-to-back pregnancies which are spaced out to be less than a year apart
- Complications during pregnancy or birth like low birth weight, multiple pregnancies or extreme premature birth
It should also be noted that studies have found that vaccines do not increase the risk of Autism.
Treatment For Autism:
Since every individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a different severity of autism, there is no single treatment. You also have to remember that the requirements and treatments for those with Autism will change over time. For this, it’s best to talk to an expert who can guide you with picking the right treatment option for the individual.
Here are some of the treatment options you have for Autism:
- Educational Therapy: Is helpful to improving communication and social skills. This treatment was found to be very effective because individuals with Autism are known to respond well to highly structured educational programs.
- Behavior And Communication Therapy: Helps teach new skills while reducing problem behaviors. This is also an excellent way to help individuals with Autism to learn how to behave in social situations.
- Family Therapy: Is vital for everyone in the family needs to know how to interact and play with children with Autism to improve their communication and daily living skills.
- Medication: Won’t help cure ASD but can help control some of the symptoms like depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, and hyperactivity.
Ways To Prevent Autism:
It’s good that you are making yourself aware of Autism, its signs and its causes so that you can spot the signs early to give the individual the best help you can. However, it’s even more critical that you do your best to minimize the risk of Autism but applying these methods of prevention.
These tips will help you reduce the risk of having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder:
- Avoid Toxic Chemicals: It’s been found that the risk for Autism increases with exposure to toxic chemicals. Some of these chemicals are found in plastics, cosmetics, pesticides and some metals. Talk to your doctor for more information.
- Increase Your Inter-Pregnancy Period: Space your pregnancies to 2-5 years apart to reduce the risk of Autism.
- Keep Your Health Up: Women who are healthy during their pregnancies have known to have a lower chance of having a baby with ASD.
- Revaluate Your Medications: Some antidepressants like SSRIs and epilepsy meds like Valproate have shown to increase the risk of Autism.
- Reduce Exposure To Air Pollution: Avoid spending too much time in areas with high levels of air pollution, especially during the third trimester as this has shown to increase the risk of Autism.
- Increase Your Folic Acid Intake: Recent studies have found that taking 400-800 mcg of folic acid every day by pregnant women can reduce the risk of Autism.
The Final Word On Autism:
There have been cases where individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have managed to minimize their symptoms to live a healthy life through treatments and support from family and friends. If you do know someone who has Autism or has just been diagnosed with Autism, there are ways in which you can help. And if you are wondering how it is that you can help, well, even just being there for the individual as a mental and emotional support will make a big difference.