What Do We Know Now About Autism?

Parenting means helping your children grow, develop and navigate the world. It’s no different for parents of children with autism, but they are faced with a unique set of challenges.

Do you know someone who has autism or who is a parent of a child with autism? Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex neuro-developmental disorders. These disorders are characterized by challenges related to:

  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Restrictive or repetitive behaviors and interests

Other difficulties often accompany autism, such as medical issues, differences in coordination and muscle tone, sleep disturbances, altered eating habits, anxiety or disordered sensory perceptions.

So what causes autism? A very short time ago, the answer was “we have no idea,” but research is now finding some of the answers.

Because of this recent research, we now know that there is no one cause of autism, just as there is no one type of autism. The CDC supports the conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism rates in children.

Struggling to Communicate
Trouble connecting with others is one of the hallmark signs of autism spectrum disorder. Even those who can speak often struggle to understand others or make themselves understood.

Although autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development, the most obvious signs and symptoms tend to emerge between two and three years of age. Often parents are the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviors, such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways.

It’s also possible for autism spectrum disorder to be diagnosed later in life, often in relation to learning, social or emotional difficulties.

Parents of infants and toddlers should stay alert for language-related delays, which tend to be some of the first signs of autism. If diagnosed, techniques used in autism therapy can help at home. It’s important to remember that each case is different. The best way to learn about your child’s needs is to participate in his or her treatment. Ask the therapists questions and listen to their advice.

Treatment Options 
There is no cure for ASD, however, doctors and researchers are still working to find out which treatments work best for each child. In the meantime, early intervention can make school and life easier for most kids with autism. Therefore, it is essential that you talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problem. Some children may also benefit from behavioral therapy or medications.

Look for a qualified developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, or child psychologist or psychiatrist to guide your child’s treatment. Be sure to check with your specialist before trying an alternative therapy, such as a special diet or supplements.

Additional Health Problems
Autism often goes hand in hand with other disorders. Many children with autism can’t sleep well, experience seizures or struggle with digestive troubles. Others develop anxiety, depression or other psychological conditions.

Your child’s doctor should treat these conditions and work with you and your child to manage autism. If your child has specific needs, consider adding a specialist in another field to the treatment team. For instance, a gastroenterologist may be able to provide more insight and help with stomach issues.

Do you have a child with autism? Share your advice with others (and ask for theirs) in the Connect community by logging in and commenting below.

Sources: Autismspeaks.org; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Anonymous