What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some individuals may have an identifiable cause such as a genetic condition, while others may remain unknown. The complexities of ASD arise from varous interacting factors that alter typical developmental paterns. Understanding these causes and their impact on individuals with ASD remains an ongoing challenge for scientists.

People with ASD may act, communicate, interact socially, and learn in unique ways compared to others. There are no distinctive changes physical appearance that set them apart. The abilities of those with ASD vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may be nonverbal while others may have advanced conversational skills. Some may require significant support in daily life, while others can navigate independently.

Asperger Syndrome was a previous diagnosis from autism, but it is now included in the spectrum of ASD. Typically, strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability distinguish Asperger Syndrome from other types of ASD.

What causes Austism?

Research shows an increasing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), yet its causes still remain unclear. Scientists have identified rare gene mutations and common genetic variations in individuals with ASD, suggesting a genetic influence. Ongoing studies focus on the interplay between genetic factors and environmental factors. For instance, a woman's exposure to harmful substances during pregnancy may contribute to genetic mutations linked to ASD in her child.

No link has been found between autism and vaccines. Every family's encounter with an ASD diagnosis is distinct, with some children's diagnoses corresponding with their vaccination schedule. Nonetheless, rigorous research over the last two decades unequivocally establishes that there is no connection between childhood vaccinations and ASD. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled an extensive list of this research, affirming the safety of vaccines in relation to autism.

Symptoms of Autism

The core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are social communication challenges and restricted, repetitive behaviors. Symptoms of ASD may begin in early childhood (though possibly unrecognized) and interfere with daily living as the person gets older.

Social Communication Challenges

Individuals with ASD face challenges in both verbal and non-verbal communication. This includes difficulties in understanding or using

  • Spoken language (approx. 1/3 of individuals with ASD are non-verbal)
  • Gestures
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Expressions not intended to be taken literally

As an individual with ASD ages, they may face additional social challenges, including difficulty with

  • Identifying emotions and intentions in others
  • Recognizing their own emotions
  • Communicating their emotions
  • Seeking emotional comfort from others
  • Being easily overwhelmed in social situations
  • Taking turns during conversation
  • Gauging personal space (maintaining appropriate distance between themselves and another person)

Restricted and repetitive behaviors

The range of restricted and repetitive behaviors differs significantly among individuals with ASD.

  • Repeating body movements such as rocking, flapping, spinning, or running/pacing
  • Repeating motions involving objects such as spinning wheels, shaking sticks or flipping levers
  • Staring at lights or spinning objects
  • Ritualistic behaviors such as lining up objects or repeatedly touching objects in a specific order
  • Developing narrow or intense interests in specific topics
  • Preferring a consistent routine and showing resistance to change

Many individuals with ASD have sensory issues, typically involving over- or under-sensitivities to sounds, lights, touch ,tastes, smells, pain, or other stimuli. ASD is also linked with high rates of certain physical and mental health conditions, such as

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Eating disorders
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHS)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Down Syndrome (DS)

Diagnosing Autism

Serene Mental Health Clinic is not able to provide diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but we are able to help treat and manage symptoms.

Parents are encouraged to keep an eye out for symptoms of ASD in their children and seek evaluation as early as possible. Diagnosis in young children is a two-step process starting with a screening by a healthcare provider, followed by continued diagnostic evaluation.

Diagnosis in adults is more difficult as some symptoms of ASD can heavily overlap those of other mental health disorders such as Anxiety Disorder or Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Treating Autism

Serene Mental Health Clinic is your source for prescribing treatment for ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be treated with medication to ease specific symptoms such as irritability, aggression, attention problems, anxiety, or depression.

Individuals with ASD may also benefit from behavioral, psychological, or educational interventions. Such programs are typically structured and intensive, often involving the participation of caregivers, siblings, and other family members. They aim to assist individuals with ASD to

  • Learn and build social, communication, and language skills
  • Reduce behaviors that interfere with daily functions
  • Increase or build upon strengths
  • Learn life skills for living independently