Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of many complicated childhood disorders, causing mild to severe impairment in the normal brain development of the child. On a general note, it is referred to as neurological disorder during the first three years of life with restrictions in the mental abilities such as social interactions, social communication and repetitive behavior or flexi thinking due to unprocessed sensory information. An autistic child is one with special needs.
How Prevalent is Autism?
Initially, autism was thought to be a very rare disorder. As per the CDC estimation, the prevalence of autistic cases in the 1990s was 1 in 2,500 which later increased to 1 in 1,000 and currently almost 1 out of 88 children is reported to be suffering from different forms of ASD. It has been estimated that the reported cases of autism are almost five times more common among boys than girls irrespective of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Factors Responsible for Autism
With the increasing prevalence, it is still not clear how the autistic brain can be different from the typical brain. Although many theories have been put forth concluding that a single factor cannot be blamed for its occurrence, researchers have linked it up with various genetic and environmental problems. It has been observed that some children with hereditary genetic makeup are born susceptible to autism, whereas many other studies have indicated that certain factors like smoking, drug addiction, alcohol consumption, viral infection, metabolic imbalances, chemical exposure, allergies etc., during pregnancy can be responsible to cause abnormal structural brain development.
Symptoms Associated with Autism
The diagnosis of autism is done on the basis of testing as well as a series of symptomatic observations by pediatricians, child psychologists or a pediatric neurologist. Although there are many abnormalities and symptoms; some of the evidence reported in the infancy for ASD are:
- Lack of eye contact.
- Unresponsiveness towards the smile, name or to the familiar voice.
- Lack of babbling or baby talks.
- Disinterested in being picked up, cuddled or touched.
As the child grows the symptoms for autism become more diverse but typically revolve around impaired social skills, verbal and non-verbal language, and difficulty and inflexible behavior. Some of the symptoms identified in early childhood are:
- Impaired verbal communication with difficulty in using and understanding words.
- Impaired non-verbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and unusual reaction to sight, smell, toys or colors.
- Abnormal voices, tones or pitch, repetition of the same words or phrases again and again.
- Disinterest in communication, making friends or playing in groups.
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness or unusual movement.
- Absolute rigidness to change from a daily routine.
- Obsessively unusual attachments to certain things such as keys, switchboards, coins, etc.
- Repetitive actions over and over again such as clapping, twirling, rocking, spinning in circle, etc.
- Lack of concentration, self-restriction.
To date there is no full proof cure available for autism. Researchers all over the world are trying their level best to shed light on many unknown facets of ASD by combining the different approaches of molecular biology, cell biology, neurosciences. In the meantime, many children are relieved through the contemporary stem cell technology.
What Goes Wrong in Autism?
In general, it has been acknowledged that autism is caused by structural and thereafter functional abnormality of the brain.