Autism is treatable. People often have ideas about autism and what it means, but autism spectrum disorder can mean a wide variety of things.
More importantly, while children do not outgrow autism, early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. Knowing that it’s treatable means helping more people at a younger age.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects people’s ability to communicate and interact with other people. Some people experience these on a mild level while others are severely disabled, which is why it is referred to as a spectrum. The signs of ASD usually appear during early childhood. There is no known cause of autism. Signs of autism include:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
These are just a few signs. Read more at the National Institute for Mental Health.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
While people previously labeled autism separately from similar disorders, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four previously distinct diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These are autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
Your pediatrician will check your child for signs of autism during regular well visits in his or her early life. Autism cannot be diagnosed in a single meeting. Parents may raise concerns about autism, but later learn their child has Sensory Integration Disorder or even ADHD.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates autism is present in about 1 in 68 births, a large increase from the 2004 estimate of 1 in 125 births. This increase means more people are aware of autism and its costs. While there is no cure, “treatment and education can address some of the challenges associated with the condition. Intervention can help to lessen disruptive behaviors, and education can teach self-help skills for greater independence,” according to the Autism Society. There are many treatment and education options, but because the autism spectrum varies widely, it’s best to select an approach based on the best interests of your family.
This new interest in autism is important as those in the spectrum begin to age. There are high demands and pressures on families living with someone who has autism. Included in that is planning for the future.
If you have concerns about your child, don’t hesitate to ask your Generations Family Practice physician. The sooner autism is diagnosed, the sooner treatments can begin to help you, and your family, figure out a path forward.