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Autism


Autism is a brain developmental disability sometimes referred to as ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Autism is characterised by difficulty with social communication, social interaction and social imagination. The causes of autism are unclear but genetic and environmental factors are believed to be contributory to changes in brain development. The signs of autism are typically displayed in a child's first two years
Autism

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of autism
Symptoms of autism Related terms

  • In the UK, half a million people have autism
  • Boys are four times more likely to develop autism
  • 40% of children wait three years before a clear diagnosis of autism is made
  • 1% of children aged 5-16 have autistic spectrum disorder
  • Autistic children are less likely to live in low income families


The exact causes of autism are unclear and the condition may not develop as a result of any one single cause. Healthcare experts point toward genetic links and environmental factors as the probable causes of the condition.

Research suggests a strong genetic link to autism however the exact genes responsible have not been identified. There is no genetic test to determine who is at risk of developing autistic spectrum disorder and the gene or genes involved may have an interaction with environmental factors too.

Pollution, viruses and vaccines may be a factor in autism along with physical developmental disorders. Brain development may be affected during or after birth from maternal rubella or a lack of oxygen but emotional deprivation and how the child is raised do not cause autism.


Symptoms of autism are related to behaviour but there are some physical difficulties that are associated with the condition. Autistic spectrum disorder varies from person to person and behaviours can be different. Some people are loners who self-stimulate in the corner of a room while others display eccentricities but function normally in their daily routine.

The characteristics of autism are defined by three main groups:  those who have difficulty with social interaction, those with difficulty communicating and those with the need for routine and repetitive behaviour.

Behavioural symptoms are typically displayed within the first three years of life but the child may show normal signs of development until such time.

Some people with autistic spectrum disorder find it difficult to learn new skills (learning disabilities) while others will display average to above-average intelligence.

In 4% of cases, the individual will be described as a 'savant' in which they will display an exceptional skill in one area. This can be art, numeracy or memorising dates.

People with autism usually find social interaction difficult, seem distant or detached from others and may want to spend most of the time on their own. They may show little interest in family members or in creating new friendships and will resist displays of affection. Eye contact is often difficult for someone with autism and they will have little understanding of other people's emotions.

Communication problems such as speech is typical of autistic spectrum disorder and children may learn to speak at a slower rate than others. When speech does develop, language can often be different and choice of words may seem odd. If the individual is anxious about communicating with others their ability to communicate will often decrease.

Someone with autism may find it difficult to express themselves or not understand others facial expressions, voice tone or gestures. They may choose more words to explain simple things or make up words and phrases. Autism affects the ability to use hand gestures when speaking and also the understanding of simple instructions or orders is impaired.

Autistic spectrum disorder may cause children to display routine and repetitive behaviour such as playing games over and over again or watching the same film many times in one sitting. If routine is disrupted they can become distressed or upset and make repeat actions such as rocking or banging their head. These rituals can often become obsessional behaviours.

Physical problems associated with autism include sensory problems. Clumsiness or an unusual way of walking are common. They may also become upset and overly sensitive to light or touch.

Those who develop Asperger's syndrome will like to keep set routines and find it difficult to express themselves using language (although their speech is generally good). People with Asperger's will find it difficult to interpret facial expressions or hand gestures and struggle with social interaction. The condition is typically diagnosed later than autism due to their average or above-average intelligence masking the difficulties.


  • Autistic
  • Mind
  • Behavioural problems
  • Repetitive
  • Learning difficulties
  • Routines
  • Sensory
  • Hypersensitive
  • Hypo-sensitive
  • Distracted
  • Detachment
  • Communication problems


Therapies to consider
Art Therapy Colour Therapy Reiki


 

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