Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder with symptoms that appear within the first three years of life. Its formal diagnostic name is autism spectrum disorder due to wide range of symptoms with varying levels of severity.
Psychiatrists and other clinicians trust on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to explain autism and its symptoms. According to DSM-5 criteria two main symptom areas:
- Deficits in social communication and interaction
- Restricted, repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities
These symptoms appear in early age of child’s development-although diagnosed later. Autism is usually diagnosed when symptoms cause developmental challenges.
People with autism may present a range of symptoms, like:
- Less eye contact
- Delayed or no speech
- Lack of facial expressions
- Not involved in imaginative play
- Closely focused interests
These are just a few symptoms an individual with autism may feel. Each individual with autism has their own strengths, likes, dislikes, interests, challenges, and skills, just like others.
No blood or genetic test can diagnose the disorder. Instead, clinicians trust on observation, medical histories, and questionnaires to diagnose autism.
Physicians and specialists may use one or more of the following screening tools
- Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT), a 20-question test developed for toddlers between 16 and 30 months old.
- Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT), is an interactive screening tool, including 12 activities that evaluate play, communication, and imitation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages autism screening for all children at the age of 18 and 24-month well-child checkups. Parents and care-providers can also ask their pediatrician for an autism screening if they have any developmental challenges. However, most children receive an autism diagnosis before the age of 8.
Prevalence of autism
In March 2020, the US Federal Centers for Disease Control announced that 1in every 54 children in the United States is affected by autism.
Although autism is more common in boys than girls.
Can Autism be cured?
Autism is a lifelong disorder, and a wide range of treatments can help support people with ASD. The symptoms and co-morbid conditions occurring in the same individual—are treatable. Early intervention gives the best results. Parents and caregivers should seek out the advice of a doctor before starting any autism treatment.
Advances in understanding autism, more children with autism have attended school in typical classrooms and gone on to live semi-independently in recent years. However, the majority of them remain affected to some extent throughout their lifetime.
When a person has more than two or more disorders, these conditions are called as comorbidities. Several co-morbid conditions are common in people with autism.
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Immune function disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Sleep disorders
Identifying co-morbid conditions can sometimes be a challenge because their symptoms may be similar to or masked by autism symptoms. However, diagnosing and detecting these conditions can avoid complications and improve the quality of life for individuals with autism.