What is autism?


Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder… affect how a person interacts with others, communicates and learns.

Know the basics

What is autism?

Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and may last throughout a person’s life. Autism can affect how a person interacts with others, communicates and learns. Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it. Scientists are not certain what cause autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

How common is autism?

Autism is becoming more common as more children are being diagnosed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have reported 1% prevalence of autism worldwide. That means 1 out of 100 children are affected by autism. Autism has been seen to affect boys 5 times more than girls. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of autism?

Some symptoms of autism may range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually start when children are very young, even 1 to 2 years old. Common symptoms may include:

  • Quiet and passive;
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or only when they want to;
  • Will not look straight at objects when another person points at them;
  • Want to stay alone in a crib or bed, sometimes for many hours;
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds;
  • May repeat gestures or behavior, such as flicking fingers, arranging objects, and insisting on rituals;
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine changes;
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions;
  • Older children may be overly sensitive to sounds, smells, touch, or taste;
  • They may lack imaginative play;
  • Slow speaking development.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor right away when you feel your child is developing slowly. Some signs may be seen within the first 2 years. These signs may include:

  • Unresponsive when called;
  • Slow communication development;
  • Difficult in gestures and behaviors or have above symptoms.

It is important to discuss any concerns you have with your doctor.

Know the causes

What causes autism?

Scientists do not know the exact cause but suggests that both genetics and environment likely play a role in autism.

There is great concern that rates of autism have been increasing in recent decades without full explanation as to why. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Imaging studies of people with autism have found differences in the development of several regions of the brain. Studies suggest that autism could be a result of disruptions in normal brain growth very early in development. These disruptions may be the result of defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other. Autism is more common in children born prematurely.

Environmental factors may also play a role in gene function and development, but no specific environmental causes have yet been identified. The theory that parental practices are responsible for autism has long been disproved. Multiple studies have shown that vaccination to prevent childhood infectious diseases does not increase the risk of autism in the population.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for autism?

There are many risk factors for autism, such as:

  • Gender: Autism is 5 times more prevalent in boys than girls.
  • Family history: Families who have 1 child who is autistic will most likely have another child with autism.
  • Other disorders: Autism tends to occur more often in children who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.
  • Pre-term babies: Autism has been seen in more babies who were born prematurely. Usually babies are more at risk if they were born before 26 weeks.
  • Parents’ age: Researches have shown there is a connection between older parents and children with autism. More research is needed to confirm this link.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is autism diagnosed?

Autism diagnosis is often a two-stage process. The first stage involves general developmental screening during well-child checkups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. Children who show some developmental problems are referred for additional evaluation. The second stage involves a thorough evaluation by a team of doctors and other health professionals with a wide range of specialties. At this stage, a child may be diagnosed as having autism or another developmental disorder.

How is autism treated?

There is currently no cure for autism. However, research shows that early intervention treatment can improve a child’s development. These intervention treatments may include:

  • Speech and language therapy: a method to improve communication development in autistic children, through speech exercises and interactive audio-visual support.
  • Occupational therapy: a therapy that helps autistic children to develop and improve skills to live and work normally every day.
  • Physical therapy: a therapy that improves the physical development by physical methods such as massage and exercise.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage autism?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with autism:

  • Follow all your doctor’s instructions after treatment.
  • Provide a regular routine in your home to help reduce repetitive behaviors.
  • Enroll your child in a treatment program that is led by a team of doctors and counselors.
  • Check out support services and local support groups for parents or autistic children.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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