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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both terms used to identify a group of complex disorders of brain development. Autism often presents itself during the first three years of a child’s life and the effects include development issues with speech/communication/social interaction skills, difficulty in motor coordination and attention and sometimes-physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.
A person with ASD typically prefers to use a set of behaviors and will resist major changes to their daily activities. People with Autism may also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. The signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life and may include:
- not pointing at objects to show interest (for example, not pointing to an airplane flying over)
- not looking at objects when another person points at them
- having trouble relating to others or not showing an interest in other people at all
- avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Not wanting to be held or cuddled, or might allow to be cuddled only when they want
- appearing to be unaware when people talk to them, but responding to other sounds
- having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
What’s important to remember is that Autism includes a wide spectrum of developmental issues. Some characteristics are common among children and adults diagnosed with ASD, but no two people have the same symptoms.
While people with Autism may have difficulties in some areas, many excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
How Common Is Autism in Children?
Statistics provided from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 children in the US are on the autism spectrum. The rate of ASD diagnoses is ten times higher than in 1974. Some of this is due to improved awareness, recognition and proper diagnosis, but there seems to be evidence that Autism is becoming more common. Studies show that the frequency of Autism is much higher in boys (four to five times more common among boys than girls). An estimated 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.
In total, Autism affects over 2 million individuals in the US and tens of millions worldwide.
What Causes Autism?
Research has not identified a specific cause; in fact, it is now accepted that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have discovered a number of rare gene mutations associated with autism. These mutations generally affect synapses in the brain, which are formed in early life. But researchers believe that most cases of autism appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.
Early Intervention Helps!
Research has shown repeatedly that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve development of certain skills by the age of 6. Early intervention services include therapy to help a child talk, walk, and interact with others. For that reason, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has an ASD or other developmental problem.
Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she would benefit from services like behavioral therapy for challenging behavior or speech therapy for language delays and social skills development.
At Therapy in a Bin, our passion is providing parents and professionals with products to help deliver those services and to help all children develop to their fullest capacity.