Medical

Autism Disease: Definition, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Autism Disease is part of the group pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which appear in early childhood, usually before the age of three years. Although symptoms and severity are variable, these disorders affect the ability of the child or adult to communicate and interact with others.

Autism Causes

Autism is a developmental disorder whose exact causes remain unknown. Researchers agree that many factors were behind the TED, including genetic and environmental factors influencing brain development before and after birth. Several genes are involved in the onset of autism in a child. These play a role in fetal brain development. Some predisposing genetic factors may increase the risk of a child being diagnosed with autism or PDD.

There are also environmental factors, such as exposure to toxic substances before or after birth, complications during birth, or infection before birth may also be involved. In any case, education or parental behavior towards the child is responsible for autism. A 1998 study attributed Columbia a link between autism and exposure to certain vaccines, particularly the vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella. However, several studies have since shown that there was no association between vaccination and autism. The lead author of the study is now accused of fraud.

Autism Disease


Autism Disease: Associated disorders

Many children with autism also suffer from other neurologic disorders, such as:

  • Epilepsy (affect 20 to 25% of children with autism)
  • Mental retardation (occur in up to 30% of children with TED)
  • Tuberous sclerosis (up to 3.8% of children with autism)
  • Fragile X syndrome (up to 8.1% of children with autism)

People with autism sometimes also have:

  • sleep problems (falling asleep or staying asleep).
  • Gastrointestinal problems or allergies.
  • Seizures that begin in childhood or adolescence can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, that is to say, uncontrollable shaking of the whole body or unusual movements.
  • Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety (very present and connected to the difficulty to adapt to changes, whether positive or negative), phobias, and depression
  • Cognitive disorders (disorders of attention, executive function disorders, memory disorders, etc.)

Living with a child with autism brings many changes in the organization of family life. Parents and siblings faced with this diagnosis are required to reorganize their daily life, which is not always easy. All this can cause a lot of stress for the entire home.

Autism Disease


Autism Disease Prevalence

6 to 7 in 1,000 people with ASDs are in children under 20 years, one child in 150. Autism affected two children under 20 years in 1000. A third of children with PDD present mental retardation associated. In Quebec, TED affects about 56 school children of 10 000, 1 child in 178. (Data 2007-2008 Quebec Federation of autism). In the United States, one child in 110 was diagnosed with a disorder of the autistic spectrum.

Over the past 20 years, the number of cases of autism has increased dramatically and now ranks among the most recorded in school handicaps. Better diagnostic criteria, identifying more precocious children with ASD, and educating professionals and the public have contributed to the increased prevalence of ASD, anywhere in the world.

Autism Disease


Autism Disease Diagnostic

Although the signs of autism often appear around the age of 18 months, a clear diagnosis may only be possible at the age of three years, when language delays, development, and social interactions are more evident. The more the child diagnosed, the sooner we can intervene early. To establish a diagnosis of PDD, various factors need to observe the behavior of the child, his skill of language, and social interactions. The diagnosis of PDD is made after a multidisciplinary investigation. Many examinations and tests are needed. In France, there are autism Resource Centres (ARC) who receive specialized multidisciplinary teams in making the diagnosis of autism and PDD.

Autism (or Autistic Disorder) is the best known of the pervasive developmental disorders. Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development: social interaction, language and communication, and behavior. The severity of symptoms varies significantly among children. A child with severe autism showed a total inability to communicate or interact with others. Some children show signs of autism at an early age. Others normally develop the first month or the first few years, then suddenly withdraw into themselves, become aggressive or lose the language they have acquired. Although each child has a unique behavior, the most common symptoms in children are:

1. In terms of social skills

  • Difficulty making eye contact or understand facial expressions.
  • Difficulty in decoding the emotional expressions (whether someone is sad) and difficulty in interpreting the intentions of others
  • A difficulty expressing his emotions, his feelings (it is sometimes difficult for loved ones to know if the child is ill, for example)
  • Failure to respond when called by name
  • A preference to play alone, to retreat into his world, an inability to make friends of his age
  • An inability to play symbolic games (imaginative, pretend)
  • Resistance to cuddling or being caught

2. In language and communication

  • The child begins to talk later than two years.
  • The appearance of other developmental delays at 30 months
  • The loss of words or phrases already acquired.
  • The child does not look at the speaker when addressing someone.
  • An inability to initiate or sustain a conversation
  • The child speaks with a rhythm or abnormal tone (a singing or “mechanical” voice)
  • The child may repeat words but does not understand the meaning.

3. In behavior

  • A tendency to perform repetitive movements (called stereotypies) such as rocking, clapping, or turn on itself
  • Excessive reliance on routines or specific rituals
  • Hyposensitivity to light sounds, touches, certain textures, or insensitivity to pain
  • Fascination parts of an object, for example, a rotating wheel on a toy.
  • The child moves continuously.
  • The child does not seek to share their interests with others.
  • The anger of seizures, aggressive acts directed against oneself (self-harm), and/or directed at others (hetero-aggressivity).

It is best to consult a specialist as soon as possible if your child:

  • Do not babble or coos at the age of 12 months.
  • Does not make gestures to communicate, for example, the point at an object or image
  • Says no word at the age of 16 months
  • Do not say a two-word phrase at the age of 24 months.
  • Seems to lose its language or social skills already acquired

Autism Disease


Autism Disease: People at risk

  • Sex: Autism seems to affect boys more frequently than girls (4 boys to 1 girl).
  • People with other developmental disorders such as Fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome.

Autism Disease: Risk factors

To date, no risk factor for autism has been established scientifically.

Autism Disease


Autism Disease: Prevention

There is no way to prevent the onset of autism or ASD. Measures to avoid the consequences of autism, when started in infancy, can improve the language and social skills of children. However, different treatments are sometimes necessary before determining which combinations of therapies are most appropriate for each child.

Autism Disease


Medical treatments for autism

Although there’s currently no possible cure for autism, nor a single effective treatment for TED, a variety of therapies and interventions are used to alleviate the symptoms and improve learning. Research demonstrates that diagnosis and intervention before school age give better results. As the brain of young children is still in training, early intervention offers better opportunities for children to develop their full potential and can make a big difference in the lives of affected children. However, it is never too late to intervene, and treatments will be beneficial regardless of the age of those diagnosed.

Due to the continuum of autism, a wide range of support measures are necessary. For example, some people need intensive support and constant supervision to spend the day safely. Others only require special assistance to communicate or to facilitate their social integration. The ideal treatment plan is a combination of therapies and interventions tailored to each child. These programs and treatments are numerous, and their implementation varies by country.

Cultural variables (educational means, instead of the disability, ethical values), economic imperatives, and the advancement of knowledge about autism are factors that partly explain these management changes and the lack of international consensus.

Autism Disease

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