What is Autism?

  • Published OnNovember 20, 2021


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a life-long neuro developmental disorder which includes autism disorder, asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and is characterized by impairments in communication skills, social interaction, and restricted and repetitive behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). About 1 in 54 children are thought to have autism (CDC,2016). With the degree of severity, an individual with spectrums will experience a combination of a few or all these symptoms which means none of the individuals are the same. Also, spectrum includes a range of other medical conditions such as ADHD, seizures, sleep problems, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.

Signs and symptoms

According to CDC, the most common signs include:

  • No pointing at objects which they are interested
  • Reduced joint attention
  • Difficulty in peer interaction
  • Avoiding eye contact and reserved
  • Difficulty in comprehending and expressing of emotions (do not have the internal neural mirror capacity for empathy to the point of having no concept of the needs of others or knowing when another is in distress)
  • Echolalia (repetition of words or phrases said to them)
  • Seems to be unaware of surrounding
  • Difficulty in expressing their requirements
  • Difficulty in pretend play
  • Repetitive actions of motions (e.g. hand flapping, spinning in circles, etc.)
  • Restricted routines (narrow interests)
  • Unusual responses to sensory stimuli, such as smells, sounds, or flavors
  • Loss of skills they used to have

Causes and risk factors

Exact cause for autism is yet to be explained. However, there are other few factors that have been associated with this spectrum.
Other potential risk includes:

  • Prenatal exposure to some medications (thalidomide, Valproic acid, Beta 2 adrenergic agonists, antipyretic, etc)
  • Premature birth
  • Reduced birth weight
  • Parental age
  • Family history
  • Genes
  • Infections and vaccinations
  • Being male child
  • Pollution (expose to environmental
  • Dietary
  • Physical/psychological stressors


No blood test or genetic profile allows a doctor to make a conclusion on autism diagnosis. Only looking at the child’s behavior and overall development are involved in diagnosing ASD.
Most developmental delays or any other disabilities are screened before the age of 30 months by pediatricians. However, if a child has a sibling with ASD or a caregiver has concerns on certain symptoms of ASD, then it is better to talk with your child’s doctor.
First of all, autism screening usually involves checking a child’s developmental milestones involving the parents with questionnaires about the child’s interactions and behaviors.
If there is any indication of autism, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is the next step including a thorough child’s behavior examination, vision, hearing genetic and neurological tests referring them to a specialist for further tests.


There is no direct medical treatment for the disappearance of symptoms of ASD, however, it can help in managing certain symptoms for depression, seizures, sleep problems, hyperactivity.
A multidisciplinary treatment plan is needed to be involved for certain intervention programs to improve cognition, reduced symptoms, ADL skills where speech therapy and behavioral therapy is used to help a child with communication difficulty and encourage a positive behavior and discourages negative behavior to improve a range of skills respectively. Occupational therapy helps a child to learn a life skill and lead their life independently as they can. Also, Sensory Integration therapy helps them to deal with the feeling of over and under sensory information. Additionally, a proper nutritional diet helps in improvement of symptoms.