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Everything You Need to Know About Autism

Autism is a chronic disorder, which first appears in childhood and is a lifelong condition. While autism usually begins before the age of 3, some children may start showing signs and symptoms of autism as early as 9 months of age.
We may sometimes hear autism referred to as autism spectrum disorder or ASD. ASD is a term that captures the complexity of autism, where some people may fall on different ends of the autism spectrum.
Children with autism may have mild impairments, while others may have more severe symptoms. ASD also includes other conditions that fall under the autism umbrella, such as Aspberger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders.
Autism also tends to have a high rate of comorbidity with other disorders, which means that there are some other conditions that are commonly diagnosed in people who have autism. Some common comorbid disorders for people who have autism are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, seizures or epilepsy, sleep disorders, feeding disorders, anxiety, and depression.

How Common is Autism?

Autism and ASD are relatively common in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 1 in 44 children have autism.
Autism and ASD tend to be more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls: some estimates that boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
Researchers have suggested that girls may display autism symptoms differently. They may be even more skilled at camouflaging their symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Researchers have outlined three main areas that symptoms of autism tend to fall under. These areas are difficulties with communication, social challenges, and repetitive behaviors and interests.

Difficulties with Communication

One of the first things that a parent might notice in a child with autism is difficulties or delays with communication. A child may appear to be learning to speak right on track, then suddenly regress and stop communicating altogether.
As they get older, some children with autism may develop language skills, however at a pace that’s more delayed than their non-autistic peers.  

Social Challenge

Along with having difficulties in communication, people with autism also tend to have social challenges. Unfortunately, these difficulties can go hand in hand with communication difficulties making social interaction challenging.
Children with autism can have a hard time developing relationships with their peers.
A parent of a child with autism might also notice that their child has little to no eye contact or the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This can mean that they’re not able to pick up on someone’s emotional state, like not interpreting the physical or situational cues that someone is sad or upset. It can also mean that they have difficulties figuring out what someone else is thinking, such as not understanding that someone pointing at an object is directing them to look at it.

Repetitive Behaviors and Interests

Another sign of autism is repetitive behaviors and interests. Some people with autism may show intense interest in specific topics, which is sometimes called hyperfixation. An example might be a person with autism who is obsessed with trains and knows everything about them, or someone who is a mathematics whiz and can complete complex arithmetic without a calculator.
Someone with autism might also show some rigidity or repetitive behaviors. 

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism can only be diagnosed by a licensed medical provider, such as your child's pediatrician. 
There are no formal medical tests for autism . Your child's pediatrician will look holistically at all of the symptoms and behaviors that your child is showing.
After screening for some of the signs and symptoms of autism, the pediatrician might refer your child for further evaluation to confirm a diagnosis. Your pediatrician might refer you to several different practitioners with specific training in diagnosing autism, including neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, and speech-language pathologists. Those practitioners will conduct a more comprehensive evaluation of your child’s abilities and symptoms, leading to a formal diagnosis.


How Early Can Autism Be Diagnosed?

Doctors and researchers continue to make more and more advancements in the diagnosis of autism. Typically, autism is diagnosed before the age of 3, but it can sometimes be detected as early as 18 months.
Because of the importance of early intervention and treatment, pediatricians will typically screen for autism signs during regular well-child visits around 18 and 24 months.

Is Autism Genetic? What Causes Autism?

You might be wondering, is autism genetic? Do kids with autism inherit it from their parents? Well, the research says that yes, there is a strong genetic component to autism, but genetics don’t capture the full story.
Autism indeed has a strong genetic component. If someone has a sibling with autism, they are 25 times more likely to have autism themselves. Researchers have also found that having a parent with autism, or having parents who are older than average, can increase the risk of having autism.
Some other environmental and genetic factors can increase the risk for autism, including having certain genetic conditions like Down syndrome and being born with a very low birth weight.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

No, vaccines do not cause autism. The science is clear on this fact. Nevertheless, the myth that vaccines cause autism has persisted in our culture. 


Currently, there is no medication that can cure autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or all of its symptoms. But some medications can help treat certain symptoms associated with ASD, especially certain behaviors. 

Positive Traits of an Autistic Child

Attention to Detail – there is both a thoroughness and accuracy around specific details. 
Deep Focus – concentration level can be very focused, allowing for freedom from distraction. 
Observation Skills – there is a listen, learn, look approach to learning. Facts are researched. 
Absorb and Retain Facts – the long-term memory is excellent with superior recall. 
Visual Skills – tend to be visual learners and detail focused. 
Expertise – there is in-depth knowledge on a topic and a high level of skills.
Methodical Approach–  thought processes are analytical; can spot patterns and repetitions. Science, math and music are subjects that have patterns in them. Organizing and categorizing use these skills.
Creativity – a distinctive imagination and expression of ideas. 
Tenacity and Resilience – determination and challenging opinions. 
Accepting of Difference – less likely to judge others. They love and people for who they are.

Integrity – honest, loyal and committed. 

Thinking about the positive aspects of autism can open doors to new opportunities, make the community more inclusive, and change how we support people with autism at home, school, and in the community. 
A positive approach will build strong relationships, which is the base for good development and quality of life. Celebrate a different way of thinking and what that can add to the world we live in.
Our staff at Healthy Kids Care at Sunrise are here to answer any questions or concerns.
In Health,
Dr. Atousa 

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