Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly called autism, is a neurological and developmental disorder in which patients find it hard to communicate and express how they feel. It is generally called a developmental disorder, as it appears mainly in the first two years of life.
As there is no known single cause of this, so the people with autism need to be handled with support and patience.
The symptoms of autism typically start showing in early childhood, which include repetitive behaviors, difficulty in speaking, difficulty in interacting with people, and many more. As there are no known causes of autism, it could be because of genetic or environmental factors or anything else. To date, the best-known treatment for autism is adapting the disease and making a suitable environment for autistic people.
2- What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder that affects the person’s neurological and developmental approach. Autistic people show various symptoms like lack of communication, repetitive behaviors, and learning, and behavioral skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder because it has a wide range of symptoms based on the severity of the disease.
It is divided into three levels-
2.1- Level 1–
Individuals with Level 1 ASD do not require a lot of support. The main symptom they show is difficulty interacting socially, and they also struggle to maintain body language.
They have slow motor activities, so switching activities, planning, and organization is challenging.
2.2- Level 2–
Compared to those with level 1 ASD, people with level 2 ASD have a tougher time disguising. They may find it difficult to socialize or communicate in acceptable ways to the neurotypical culture. They will also have difficulty switching their attention or going from one task to another.
People with highly narrow interests and repetitive behaviors that deviate from socially acceptable neurotypical behaviors or emerge in settings that neurotypical people find incongruous are included in the level 2 expression of autism.
2.3- Level 3–
Individuals with level 3 illnesses are the most vulnerable to prejudice, abuse, and neglect since they require the greatest amount of help. While many of the characteristics of people with levels 1 and 2 diagnoses will be present in this category as well, they have extremely high loads of self-regulation and are completely incapable of masking them.
Accurate verbal, nonverbal, and facial expression problems can make it extremely difficult to carry out daily tasks, engage in social interactions, and adjust to changes in focus or location. Early access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tools can help with some of these challenges because everyone has the human right to communicate, even if they are nonverbal. Repetitive behaviour is another characteristic of level 3 ASD.
3- Symptoms of Autism
The Autism symptoms varies significantly as it a spectrum disorder. It varies in term of severity and intensity of disease and the symptoms can change for different people over time.
Some signs of autistic people are as follows:
3.1- Social Difficulties
The incapacity to form connections and participate in social circumstances.
Insufficient or indifferent to peers or having difficulty making friends.
Inability to respond to nonverbal clues such as facial expressions and gestures.
Not being able to read and understand other people’s emotions.
3.2- Communication Challenges
Prolonged speech and language acquisition.
Not being able to initiate or sustain discussions.
Unusual speech patterns, such as echolalia (repeating someone else’s words) or intonation.
It might be challenging to decipher nonverbal clues like body language and facial emotions.
3.3- Repetitive Behaviors-
· Doing motions or tasks that are repetitive, such as spinning things, flapping one’s hands, or rocking back and forth.
· Insistence of consistency or routines and agitation over deviations from them.
· Intense concentration on a particular subject or item.
3.4- Unusual Play and Interests-
· Play that is restricted in its imagination or that favors stereotypical and repetitive play.
· Intense concentration on one thing or subject at the expense of another.
3.5- Difficulty in Adaptability-
· Contradiction to routine modifications.
· Difficulty adjusting to novel circumstances or surroundings.
3.6- Sensory Sensitivities-
· A shift in sensitivity towards different sensory stimuli, like lighting, sounds, and textures.
. Unusual reactions to sensory data, such as apathy towards pain or strong sensitivity to particular sounds.
4- Causes of Autism-
Although the precise causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not fully understood, a combination of neurological, genetic, and environmental factors is thought to be responsible.
4.1- Genetic Factors–
4.1.1- Mutations in Genetics
People diagnosed with autism have been found to carry specific genetic abnormalities and variations. A tiny percentage of these mutations might interfere with the brain’s ability to develop and operate normally.
4.1.2- The Impact of Heredity
Autism has a significant hereditary component. It is believed that a mix of environmental factors and genetic predisposition causes many cases.
4.2- Environmental Factors–
4.2.1- Infections by viruses
Pregnancy-related viral infections have been investigated as possible environmental factors linked to a higher prevalence of autism.
4.2.2- Exposure to Toxins
Pregnancy and early childhood exposure to specific chemicals or environmental pollutants have been looked into as potential risk factors.
4.2.3- Prenatal Factors-
There may be prenatal and perinatal factors that increase the likelihood of autism. These include maternal health, problems during pregnancy or childbirth, and exposure to specific drugs.
4.3- Neurological Factors–
4.3.1- Neurotransmitter Imbalance-
Autism may be influenced by neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormalities in the brain’s chemical messengers.
4.3.2- Brain Structure and Function-
Autism may arise from abnormalities in the structure or function of the brain. Studies have shown that people with ASD differ in the size and activity of specific brain regions.
4.4- Advanced parental age-
There may be a link between elevated risk of autism and older parents, particularly older fathers, according to certain research. Genetic mutations in sperm or egg cells may be more common in older parents.
5- Neurotransmitters Responsible for Autism-
Numerous neurochemical pathways play a role in the development of ASD; however, it is still unknown how these intricate networks interact to trigger the onset of the main symptoms of autism.
Several neurotransmitters responsible are-
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main excitatory neurotransmitter during brain development. Alteration in this disrupts excitatory/ inhibitory balance. Children diagnosed with ASD have altered levels of glutamate and GABA in their plasma. Specifically, there is a notable increase in plasma GABA and the glutamate/glutamine ratio. In contrast, there is a notable decrease in plasma glutamine and the glutamate/GABA ratios compared to the controls.
Numerous investigations have demonstrated how the serotonin system plays a role in the early stages of brain development in the aetiology of autism. Serotonin acts as a mood and sleep regulator, interfering with some brain processes, including memory and learning.
There are theories that dopamine imbalances in particular brain regions may cause autistic behaviours and that ASD may be connected to dopaminergic dysfunction. It causes social deficits.
It functions as a neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator in the central nervous system and is the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system. So, its imbalance disrupts motor responses.
Melatonin is a major regulator of sleep-wake rhythm and Sleep disorders in children with ASD frequently manifest as parasomnia and trouble falling and staying asleep.
6- Age Group At Highest Risk Of Autism-
As autism is a neuro-developmental disorder, the symptoms become more noticeable around the age of 2 or 3. The fact that autism is a spectrum disorder—meaning that each person is affected differently and to varying degrees—must be understood. In their first few months of life, some children may display symptoms of autism, while other children may develop normally and then show symptoms later.
7- What Causes Autism During Pregnancy-
The possible contribution of prenatal factors to the development of autism is still being investigated. Still, it’s crucial to remember that there is no one clear cause for the disorder and that there are many interrelated genetic and environmental variables at play.
The following are a few variables that have been researched in connection to autism during pregnancy:
7.1- Genetic Factors-
Autism develops primarily as a result of genetic factors. An increased risk of autism may result from specific genetic mutations or variations. The risk may be increased if there is a family history of autism or other developmental disorders.
7.2- Advanced Age of Parenthood-
There may be a tenuous link between older parents—particularly fathers—and an elevated incidence of autism.
7.3- The mother’s health-
Mothers who suffer from certain health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, may be at a higher risk of developing autism. Since the link is intricate, further study is necessary to fully grasp the specifics.
7.4- Issues arising during gestation-
There may be a weak correlation between prenatal illnesses or pregnancy-related issues and a higher prevalence of autism. However, the danger is negligible overall.
The risk of autism may be affected by specific medications as well as exposures to pregnant women. To make definitive conclusions, further research is necessary in this area due to contradictory results.
8- Precautions for Autism-
Treatments and precautions for autism spectrum disorder varies depending upon the special needs and challenges of individual person.
8.1- Develop some social skills to keep the autistic people engaged and to ease them with their social interactions.
8.2- It should be addressed properly that each autistic people have some strengths and weaknesses, and shape it in the right direction.
8.3- Using effective communication strategies with autistic people will help them effectively.
8.4- Regular assessments of child like physical, mental and developmental is necessary.
8.5- If the symptoms of autism is clearly expressed in a child, consulting an expert as soon as possible is necessary.
9.1- In behavioral treatment for autistic people, it is focused to lessen the troublesome behavior and encourage the positive behavior.
9.2- Family support and proper education can shape the life of autistic people in a right way.
9.3- Speech therapy is helpful to improve the verbal and non-verbal communication skills of autistic people.
9.4- Teaching them some daily life skills will help them to improve their motor responses and they can be a little independent.
9.5- In certain symptoms of autism like anxiety and aggressiveness, medicines are prescribed.
As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a very sensitive disease, like any mental disorder, it should be handled with delicacy. The first thing to do is to recognize the disease, spread its awareness among people and teach them how to behave with autistic people. It will be very beneficial for the families to stay updated with the new research and advancements in this area.
If there is a doubt that this can affect your child’s growth and development, reach out to the experts or medical professionals.