ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Autism pertains to a group of compounded disorders that affect the development of the brain. The most recognizable characteristics of this disorder is portrayed in varying degrees of difficulties, such as social interaction, repetitive behaviour, the inability to communicate, either verbally or non-verbally.
Motor coordination and attention difficulties, intellectual disability, physical health problems like gastrointestinal and sleep disturbances are symptoms of autism. However, individuals who are autistic exhibit exceptional skills in music, art, and math, display visual skills and academic brilliance.
Though autism develops in the early stages, the signs and symptoms become visible when the child is around 2 or 3 years old. Autism affects about 10 million people all over the world.
Autism is not because of any one definitive cause but has been pinpointed by scientists to be related to a number of genes and rare gene mutations. Even a small number of these changes can cause autism. However, in many cases of autism, most of them turn out to be caused by an amalgamation of "autism risk genes", with environmental factors determining early brain development.
The possibility of a gene or genes likely to mutate to cause autism, with environmental stress factors and / or for non-genetic reasons abetting that change, sets up numerous risk factors for a child. The most distinctive reasons on the autism related risk factors relate to certain difficulties occurring during the birth of the child, deprivation of oxygen to the brain of the child during birthing, illness during pregnancy, and advanced parental age at the time of conception (both partners). However, these factors by themselves do not cause autism, but occur in together with genetic disorders or mutations.
Research suggests that women should consume a diet rich in folic acid (about 600 mcg/ day), before, after conception and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of bearing a child with autism.
Every autistic child or adult is unique; therefore any autism interventional program developed for them should be tailored to each individual's specific needs. Such programs may involve behavioural treatments, medication or both. Some individual may have additional disorders like gastrointestinal disturbances, sleep disorders or seizures. Treating these disorders will help improve related behaviours, attention and learning capabilities.
Understanding autism, managing it and working with each individual with the disorder, will make it possible to help these individuals to function independently and lead a better quality of life. With higher quality care and improved treatments, more and more individuals with autism are having better outcomes in all spheres of life.