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4 Things You Should Know About Autism

autism statistics worldwide blue puzzle of head with puzzle pieces falling out Middle Class Dad

Autism is a condition that can affect people of all ages. Since it’s most often noticed in young children, parents everywhere can benefit from learning about autism, as this can help them identify common traits in their own children. Here are four of the top things you should know about autism

What is autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a medical condition that affects the neurological development of people who have it. As one of the quickest-growing developmental disorders in the country, autism is a condition that’s gaining awareness rapidly. Autism can be found in people of all ages, all races, and all economic backgrounds, as it’s largely unaffected by external factors.

The most common age group that receives autism diagnoses is children around three years old. This is because autism can present as early as 12 months, and its signs can be tracked throughout early development to determine whether a child may need a screening for diagnosis. However, as many individuals grow up without being screened for the condition, it’s becoming more and more common for people to receive an autism diagnosis later in life, even into adulthood.

Specialists most often identify autism in patients through the recognition of behavioral symptoms that people exhibit from an early age. This can include signs like disinterest in socialization, stunted behavioral development, and intense interest in specific subjects or objects. Many people with autism also experience sensory sensitivity, meaning they have difficulty with rapidly changing or intense light, sound, or touch.

How is autism diagnosed?

Since there isn’t a technical medical test to determine the presence of autism in a child, doctors use behavioral and developmental data to diagnose autism in patients. One of the most common practices for diagnosing autism is developmental monitoring, which involves a medical professional consistently analyzing a child’s early milestones. This can be effective because many children with autism experience halts in their development that signal the condition may be present. Parents can also take their children in for more formal developmental screening, which is most effective when repeated at the ages of nine months, 18 months, and 30 months.

Another way to diagnose autism is to undergo a developmental screening. This process involves the child completing a test using a screening tool that determines whether they might need to see a specialist about autism. Developmental screening can involve activities like taking a structured exam, answering questions from a specialist, or performing tasks while a developmental specialist watches.

What causes autism?

There is no single known cause for autism. As the condition exists as a spectrum, research shows a huge variety in traits of autism in children, none of which stem from a specific cause. All experts in the field note that modern research has classified autism as a natural condition that isn’t affected by external stimuli. However, there are a few traits outside of the condition that can be common among children with autism, which some researchers suspect may act as risk factors in developing it, such as: 

  • Family members with histories of autism
  • Genetic mutations
  • Fragile X syndrome or alternative genetic conditions
  • Parents with advanced age
  • Imbalances in metabolics

What should you do if you suspect your child has autism?

If you suspect that your child has autism, the first thing you can do to benefit them is bring them to a specialist for a screening and diagnosis. This can give you the opportunity to learn about whether they may have autism and what you can do to support them as they continue to grow and develop. If your child is under three years old, you may also be able to refer them to an Early Intervention (EI) program in the state where you live.

If your child is older than three, you can also likely enroll them in a special education program at the school they plan to attend. This can ensure they receive the additional support and attention they may need to succeed and remain comfortable at school. You can reach out to your school district to ask about accommodations for students with autism to learn more about the options you have for your own child.

Autism is a medical condition that many people live with all over the world. These are some of the top details to know about autism, as they may help you identify traits in your own child, which can help them get the diagnosis they need. If you or someone you love suspects their child might have autism, you can seek out a specialist to learn about how to set up a professional screening.

Jeff Campbell