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All about autism

This week is Autism Awareness Week (29 March - 4 April 2021) and so today’s blog post is dedicated to autism. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me she has autism spectrum disorder and has little information about what autism is so we will explain the disorder.


What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour. With having autism, people with the disorder may have difficulty with communication, restricted interest, repetitive behaviours and the ability to function properly in certain areas of life. There are different severities of the disorder as it can be mild for some people and severe for others. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.


There are 5 different types of autism such as:

· With or without accompanying intellectual impairment

· With or without accompanying language impairment

· Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

· Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioural disorder

· With catatonia


What are the symptoms of autism?

· Problems with communication and social interaction includes:

o Issues with communication, including difficulties sharing emotions, sharing interests, or maintaining a back-and-forth conversation

o Issues with nonverbal communication, such as trouble maintaining eye contact or reading body language

o Difficulties developing and maintaining relationships


· Restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour or activities include:

o Repetitive movements, motions, or speech patterns

o Rigid adherence to specific routines or behaviours

o An increase or decrease in sensitivity to specific sensory information from their surroundings, such as a negative reaction to a specific sound

o Fixated interests or preoccupations


What are the causes of autism?


The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates that there’s no single cause. Some of the suspected risk factors for autism include:

· Having an immediate family member with autism

· Genetic mutations

· Fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders

· Being born to older parents

· Low birth weight

· Metabolic imbalances

· Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins

· A history of viral infections

· Foetal exposure to the medications valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)


How can you diagnose autism and the treatment involves?


There are different ways that doctors can check if someone has autism spectrum disorders such as

· DNA testing for genetic diseases

· Behavioural evaluation

· Visual and audio tests to rule out any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to autism

· Occupational therapy screening

· Developmental questionnaires, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)


There are no “cures” for autism, but therapies and other treatment considerations can help people feel better or alleviate their symptoms.


Many treatment approaches involve therapies such as:

· Behavioural therapy

· Play therapy

· Occupational therapy

· Physical therapy

· Speech therapy

· Massages, weighted blankets and clothing, and meditation techniques may also induce relaxing effects.

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