Causes for Autism are often elusive and still require much investigation. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been affecting the lives of 1 in every 68 children in the United States. In the UK, 700,000 people are known to be on the autism spectrum. If you include their families thats 2.8 million people affected by the disorder.
This type of neuro-developmental disorder causes people to have difficulties with communication and social interaction. People who are diagnosed with ASD typically shows a repetitive, restricted, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour and actions.
Regardless of economic status, race and culture, this is an alarming issue as the number of cases is on the rise. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that autism happens more in boys than girls, with a ratio of 4:1.
Families around the world and many in the scientific community continue to search for the causes for autism, to try to figure out if it is preventable and work out the best treatments.
What Are The Early Signs Of Autism?
The symptoms of autism typically appear between 12 and 24 months of age. In this stage of early childhood, the child may not show signs of normal development but a delayed one. As the child grows, he or she will encounter an increasing number of problems, leading to much frustration and stress.
This condition greatly affects daily life and the way the child reacts in the social environment. Being an autistic person can be a negative factor in job employment and studies. They may also be a subject of bullying and social isolation. For families who have an autistic member, handling the situation requires an extreme amount of care, love, support, and dedication.
Some of the early signs of autism include:
● unable to smile or respond socially
● poor eye contact
● no response to name
● no social interaction skills
● loss of language
● an excessive lining of objects or toys
● no pointing or babbling by 12 months of age
● inability to utter single words by 16 months or two-word phrases at 24 months
The child’s development within the first two years are highly critical and must be clearly observed. Seeing these early signs may increase your concerns and you might need to look for a doctor or a specialist to diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment.
Two Main Categories of Autism Symptoms:
1. Communication and Social Interaction
This refers to the child’s inability to establish and build relationships among people and the environment he or she is living in.
● Difficulties in conveying feelings and emotions
● Issues in responding to a conversation and back-and-forth communication
● Trouble in reacting to body language
● Maintaining eye contact
2. Repetitive and Restricted Behavioural Patterns
This is the actions that a child is extremely attached to, allowing them to perform specific tasks and activities repetitively.
● repetitive and unusual speech patterns and bodily movements
● inability to follow specific behaviour and routines
● highly or less sensitive to surroundings and does not react accordingly to certain sensory information such as sounds
● fixated attention and interest to something
Main Causes For Autism
Autism spectrum disorder has no exact cause and still remains a topic of scientific research until this day. Studies suggest that the disorder is affected by a mix of genetic, non-genetic, and environmental factors.
This influences the level of severity and complexity of the disorder. The degree of impairment impacts the child’s ability to function normally such as showing learning difficulties and lower intelligence among peer and age group.
Listed below are some of the most common causes for autism:
1. Genetics As One Of The Causes For Autism
Changes in genes are present in the persons involved in Autism Spectrum Disorder. They may be associated with a condition like fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome. These genes can either be inherited or may just happen spontaneously through the child’s developmental stage in the embryo.
These genetic mutations may be one of the causes for autism spectrum disorder among children. It disrupts brain cells and impairs communication and affects brain development, causing delayed learning and other severe signs.
2. Environmental Factors As One Of The Causes For Autism
The risk of autism in people can be also influenced by environmental factors such as pregnancy and birth complications. Children that are born in extreme prematurity (26 weeks), involved in multiple pregnancies, low birth weight or less than a year pregnancy space are likely to have autism.
Check out this video from Boston Children’s Hospital on the Causes For Autism
Other factors that are regarded as possible causes for autism include family history and parent’s age. Families who have an autistic member has higher chances of having another child with an autism spectrum disorder. There is also a link that connects autism to children born to an older parent.
Are Vaccines One Of The Causes For Autism?
Many of us think that vaccines are also responsible for the development of autism. This has been a controversy being debated over the years. The truth is, there is not a proven link between autism and childhood vaccines.
Scientists spent at least two decades conducting extensive research about the matter and proved that autism is not associated with vaccines.
How Autism Disorder is Tested and Diagnosed?
Identifying ASD in children can be screened at an early age of 18 to 24 months. This determines if the child’s development is normal or unusual.
Diagnosing a child’s autism spectrum disorder is done in 3 basic screening methods listed below. This serves as an initial step on understanding the child’s development and behaviour.
1. Developmental Screening
This involves a checklist and a series of questions that the parent will answer and fill out. The response to these will be used by doctors and paediatricians to identify if the child has a risk of ASD.
2. DNA Testing
A child undergoes a DNA test if he or she is positive for diseases that may influence autism.
3. Behavioural Evaluation
Audio and visual tests are used to diagnose a child’s ability to visualise and hear certain objects. If vision and hearing are not good, a child may be at risk of autism.
Is There A Cure For Autism?
Autism is a broad issue and does not have an exact medication. It can happen to anybody and its severity depends on how an individual approaches it. Scientists and researchers are still working to develop treatments and new ways to deal with ASD.
Behavioural treatment appears to be the most effective at the moment. Seeking help from physiotherapists, occupational therapist and behavioural therapists is vital in the early days.
There are also excellent tools to help behaviour difficulties like weighted blankets to help reduce anxiety and meltdowns during the day. But also to help the child settle quicker for bed time and sleep through the night. Once this is achieved the child’s behaviour improves dramatically and life improves for the whole family.
If one child does not sleep well, it is often the case that the whole family suffers too.
Once there are clearer links and more data on the causes for autism, the best treatments will also become clearer.
What Are The Latest Research Findings for Autism?
With the advancement of technology, there are new studies aligned on the causes for autism and here they are detailed below:
1. Autism is affected by the genes
Research and studies that are anchored on how genes influence ASD have been widened and taken further. According to new studies, scientists have uncovered new 60 genes that are far greater than the current 500 different genes that are associated with an autism spectrum disorder.
Several findings in genetic research show how the gene CNTNAP2 affects brain functions. This type of gene impacts language impairment and thinking abilities. Scientists have tested carriers’ brain activity in information processing and have found out that it reflects inappropriate brain connectivity and immature brain functioning.
Another is the gene CCNND2 which is identified as an essential element for the development of neurons in utero which is commonly associated with girls.
2. Presence of White Matter Fiber Tracts
Results of in-depth investigations show that white matter fiber tracts differ in children with autism. These white matter tracts act as a superhighway of the brain and are responsible for the efficient transfer of information to and from different brain regions.
Based on scientific studies, a greater Fractional Anisotropy (FA) is present on infants with autism spectrum disorder by 6 months of age. Fractional anisotropy relates to white matter fibers’ function and directionality.
This means that with higher FA, the better organisation of information occurs. For children with ASD, they have poor micro-structural organisation due to the slower change in FA. To explain shortly, the white matter tracts (brain superhighways) are unable to function at best and thus, results to child’s delayed learning and intellectual development.
3. Brain Pruning
Brain pruning is a process where the brain removes neurons that are damaged in order to strengthen and improve its connections and networks. This activity makes an easier transition between early childhood and adulthood.
By eliminating unimportant synapses, the brain is able to show that autism spectrum disorder can be associated with excessive levels of a molecule that disrupts the capacity of the brain cells to terminate any unwanted cells.
4. Early Intervention Is Important
When we say intervention, this means that immediate early support is provided to a child or young people. With this therapeutic service, you can determine the problem early and can prevent possible issues from rising.
A type of behavioural intervention, Early Start Denver Model, popularly known as (ESDM) reflects that the treatment improves language skills, IQ, and social behaviour of children with ASD.
Conclusion : Causes For Autism
As explained in this article, the causes of autism are influenced by genetic, non-genetic, and environmental factors. No autistic child is the same and express their thoughts and emotions differently.
Suffice to say that the science of how the brain works and how it may work differently in a child with autism is closely linked to the major causes of autism and its subsequent treatment.