Autism Spectrum Disorder

A neurodevelopmental disease that is commonly diagnosed during childhood is called Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many people know this condition by its former name of autism. In any case, ASD includes different conditions within the spectrum. This mental disorder tends to change the way a child interacts and communicates. Unfortunately, this condition is not curable but proper treatment can reduce the symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

What is Autism?

This neurodevelopmental condition provokes certain changes in children’s brains. It means they interact, behave, and communicate differently from other people. Children with autism often face social interaction problems.


When your child experiences autism, you may notice the following factors. Examples include:

  • Repetitive motor behaviors (including flapping arms, body rocking, and others)
  • Delayed language development
  • Insistence on sameness in the environment
  • Intense or unusual interests
  • Sensory aversions (such as dislike of loud noises)
  • Difficulty forming and understanding relationships
  • Using and understanding nonverbal communication problems (such as eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and others)
  • They can also face problems in interacting with other people

Usually, as more severe symptoms a child experiences as many daily function problems happen.

What is The Difference between Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The name of this condition was changed from autism to autism spectrum disorder in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association. Nowadays, ASD is an umbrella term that includes different autism levels. Healthcare professionals consider some conditions from ASD separate. For example:

  • Autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorder

Asperger Syndrome vs. Autism

Experts consider these conditions different. Asperger syndrome is used by healthcare providers to describe mild autism form. However, some people use high-functioning autism to describe Asperger syndrome. People with this condition can read, write, speak, and handle basic life skills.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) vs. Autism

While these disorders have several similar characteristics they are not the same. However, ADHD is not on the ASD. Generally, these conditions are genetically related and if your child has one of them, there is an increased chance that he/she will get another one.

How Common is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorders impact approximately 1 in 44 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, autism is more likely to develop in boys and children assigned to male at birth (AMAB) than in girls and people assigned to female at birth (AFAB). Boys and AMAB are 4 times more prone to experience ASD than girls and AFAB.


The autism symptoms are different among people. It is recommended to visit a doctor if you are noticing any of the following autism signs. For example:

  • When parents call the child by name, he/she does not look at them
  • Your children do not smile or make sounds and faces with you by the age of 9 months
  • If your baby is 6 months of age and makes warm and joyful expressions
  • The baby does not babble by 12 months of age
  • The child does not use gestures including waving or reaching by the age of 12 months
  • Your baby does not play any games (such as “peek-a-boo”) by the 12 months of age
  • Your child does not say any words by the age of 16 months
  • The children do not speak meaningful phrases by 24 months of age
  • A loss of speech, babbling, or social skills

Specific behavior also may occur in children with autism (such as restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests). For example:

  • Obsessive and unusual interests
  • Significant sensory aversions
  • Sensory-seeking behaviors
  • Extreme reactions caused by certain small changes in routine
  • The children usually line up or play with the toys in the same way every time


However, it is not clear why this condition happens. Experts think that genetic and environmental factors are some causes. They also believe that ASD is caused by a combination of factors that act together. Anyway, more research about ASD causes is needed.


It is considered that genetics plays a role in ASD and experts found specific genetic causes in 10%-20% of cases. The genetic causes include fragile X syndrome and certain changes in the genetic code.

Are Siblings A Significant Risk for ASD?

This disease is hereditary and when one child gets an autism diagnosis, the next one has a 20% increased risk of developing autism. However, in case the first two children have this condition the risk elevates to 32% for the next one.

Do Vaccines Provoke Autism?

As per studies, vaccines cannot provoke this health condition. In some cases, parents think that ASD symptoms in their child happen due to recent vaccination. In any case, there are no studies that can confirm the link between childhood vaccination and autism.

Risk Factors

Check below some autism risk factors:

  • Birthing women older than 35 years old
  • Females who use Valproic acid or Thalidomide during pregnancy
  • Complications at birth
  • Premature labor and birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Sibling with Autism
  • Some chromosomal or genetic disorders


Unfortunately, different diseases (including mental and physical) can occur along with autism. Check below some of them:

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other mental disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia)
  • Feeding problems


However, it may be difficult for physicians to diagnose this condition because there is no test that can confirm autism. Therefore, doctors will perform special screenings and evaluations. Check below some steps that include autism diagnosis:

  • Developmental surveillance – During this test, physicians will assess the child’s developmental history and behavior.
  • Developmental screening – This is a more formal step that helps to check a child’s development. This procedure includes several questions and checklists that will be compared to other children of the same age.
  • Formal Evaluation – This test involves a deep look at your child’s development and involves a child psychologist or a developmental-behavioral pediatrician.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ASD be cured?

No, it is a lifelong condition that has no cure but suitable treatment can help you get rid of the symptoms over time. Discuss with a healthcare provider for more details.

Is it possible to prevent autism?

However, it is impossible to prevent ASD because it is not clear exactly how it happens. Anyway, following the steps listed below you can decrease the risk of having a baby with this neurodevelopmental disorder. Examples include:

  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle (including regular exercise, regular appointments with your healthcare professional, a healthy diet, and others).
  • Do not use any medications during pregnancy without a doctor’s recommendation.
  • Avoid alcohol drinks, especially during pregnancy
  • You should also get all recommended vaccinations such as the German measles (rubella) vaccine before pregnancy.

What are the five major types of autism?

  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Rett syndrome
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Kanner’s syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorder

Ask your healthcare professional if you have additional questions.

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