Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental conditions that can result in substantial social, communication, and behavioral difficulties. According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, an average of 1 in every 54 (1.9%) of 8-year-old children were identified as having ASD in 2016. ASD is reported to occur in all racial and ethnic groups, and ASD is 4.3 times more common in boys (3.0%) than in girls (0.7%).
There is typically nothing about how people with ASD appear that distinguishes them from others. Still, people with ASD may communicate, interact, and learn in ways that most other people do not. People with ASD have varying cognitive, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities, ranging from gifted to severely impaired.
Some persons with ASD require a lot of assistance in their everyday life, while others require less. Every person diagnosed with autism truly is unique, but there is a wide range of evidence-based treatments that unlock new possibilities and approaches to positive outcomes.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a lifelong neurological disease that is extremely complex in its origin and inner workings. Although it isn’t a mental disease or a learning disability, these diagnoses can coexist with ASD. Symptoms are typically recognized within the first two years of life. As children are grown, the symptoms can become more extensive and defined.
Symptoms of ASD include:
- Deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, including the use of expressive language
- A lack of capacity to understand the thoughts and feelings of others
- Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others
- Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities
- Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
- Impaired social development and reciprocal social engagement
- Preoccupation with specific topics or activities to an excessive extent
- Favoring a particular object
- Disliking or an inability to handle change
- Difficulty regulating senses
- Fits of anger and self-inflicted harm
What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?
While researchers aren’t sure what causes ASD, there are a variety of factors that could be linked with ASD. A child’s risk for ASD can be increased by a variety of variables, including environmental, biological, and genetic factors. Some of these include:
- ASD can be caused by genetic factors, according to the majority of researchers.
- An increased chance of developing ASD is seen for children who have a sibling with ASD.
- Asperger’s syndrome is more common in people with specific genetic diseases such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.
- The pharmaceutical medications such as valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked to an increased risk of ASD when used during pregnancy.
- Before, during, and shortly after birth is believed to be a crucial phase for the development of ASD.
- Those born to elderly parents are at a higher risk of developing ASD.
ASD is a form of developmental impairment caused by abnormalities in the brain. Some people have an identifiable cause, such as a hereditary disease. As of yet, further reasons are unknown. Scientists believe that ASD is caused by various factors that work together to alter how people grow up with the condition. In terms of these factors and how they affect persons with ASD, there is still a lot to learn.
Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
The availability of treatment for autism has increased with legislation that increases access to health care. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies are no longer able to deny, limit, or charge more for coverage to anyone based on a pre-existing condition, including autism and related disorders.
Currently, there is no treatment that can “cure” ASD. However, numerous therapies have been developed that can help those with ASD learn to cope with symptoms, enhance cognitive capacity and daily living skills, and increase a person’s ability to function and engage in the community. It is agreed across the board that one of the best ways to address an ASD is to evaluate and diagnose it as early as possible.
Behavioral intervention techniques are centered on developing social communication skills, such as social skills therapy and occupational therapy, as well as speech therapy if needed. Some medications have also been effective in managing restrictive and repetitive behaviors (RRBs), such as “stimming,” which are self-stimulating behaviors, such as the repetition of physical movements, sounds, words, or touching or moving objects. The optimal therapy or intervention for a person might change based on their age, strengths, problems, and differences.
Several therapy options are available, such as applied behavior analysis, social skills training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, sensory integration therapy, and assistive technology.
Therapies for ASD can be broadly classified into the following categories:
- Approaches to Behavior and Communication
- Dietary Methods
- Complementary & Alternative Medicine Medication
Because ASD is so complex and varied, it can take some time to find the therapeutic approaches that work for you or your loved one. At SoCal Mental Health, we have experienced professionals who can diagnose autism spectrum disorders and provide a number of therapy options for learning to manage ASD and live fulfilling lives.
How We Can Help
Autism exists along a spectrum, and each person living with one has their own path toward the life they choose. When a diagnosis comes along, it can be easy to feel like the door to life is closing. At SoCal Mental Health, our goal is to open that door to the world of possibilities and self-sufficiency. The feeling of independence and having a healthy life isn’t too much to ask–they’re what you deserve.