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Autism

Are online autism tests accurate?

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It can be difficult to determine autism spectrum disorder ( ASD) as there is no standardized test to diagnose this condition. Although online tests can help identify characteristics of ASD, they are not tools for diagnosis. With assessments, only an autism specialist can diagnose ASD, although online assessments can aid.

In childhood, symptoms of ASD can grow by the age of 3 years. Some individuals will, however, not obtain a diagnosis until they reach adulthood.

To decide if they or their kids have the disorder, some individuals may use an online test. They do not, however, necessarily have an effective diagnosis.

In this post, we discuss in-depth autism research and take a closer look at the precision of online testing.

What is autism?

A child pressing laptop with his father

ASD is a neurological disorder that can cause differences in how an individual socializes, behaves, and interacts. People with autism, which can make diagnosis difficult, can be different from each other.

In 2016, the prevalence of ASD in U.S. children was around 1 in 54, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

ASD is listed as an umbrella term with distinct levels in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that indicates the support a person may need.

While experts used to think that ASD was more prevalent in men than women, some research suggests that in women, the condition may be underdiagnosed.

For ASD, there is no cure or recognized cause, although there is some agreement that genes play a role. Many individuals with autism, however, value neurodiversity and do not think there is a need for a cure.

From one person to another, the autism spectrum can appear quite differently. People with autism, however, may typically experience communication difficulties, social interaction, minimal or repetitive activities, and sensory processing.

While some of these symptoms in individuals may suggest ASD, they may also refer to other disorders or diagnoses.

How do doctors test for autism?

Typically, an autism diagnosis occurs in early childhood. Nevertheless, as symptoms differ widely, the condition can be difficult to diagnose. Some people may not receive a diagnosis until they are adults.

There is no official test to diagnose ASD at present. In individuals, however, the following experts may be able to validate this condition:

  • psychologist
  • neuropsychologist
  • neurologist
  • psychiatrist
  • developmental pediatrician

Below are some examples of the tests for autism:

Developmental screening

As they grow, doctors screen kids for developmental progress. Screening involves frequent visits to a pediatrician.

If a parent or caregiver has concerns about the development of a child, their pediatrician may refer them to a specialist, who may perform the following assessments:

  • hearing tests
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)

If a child’s scores show a high risk for autism, the M-CHAT identifies the need for additional testing. It is not a diagnostic tool, but a screening method used by specialists to determine who needs a more comprehensive ASD evaluation.

No single test can diagnose ASD definitively. Other screening tools may include:

  • Ages and Stages Questionnaires
  • Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales
  • Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test-II
  • Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children
  • Social Communication Questionnaire

If they think a physical condition, such as lead poisoning or a genetic disorder, is causing similar symptoms to ASD, healthcare providers can also order extra tests.

Behavioral evaluation

Usually, behavioral evaluation is the next move if a child scores significantly on the M-CHAT or a separate screening tool. Tests during this process can include assessments from:

  • child psychologists
  • neurologists
  • language and speech pathologists
  • developmental pediatricians
  • occupational therapists

Specialists use a combination of exams and screening tools to make a diagnosis.

An evaluation may involve:

  • observing play and parent-child interaction
  • taking a detailed history
  • physical exams
  • developmental skill assessment to determine if there is any language, motor, social, or cognitive impairment
  • hearing tests
  • language evaluation

Diagnostic tools at this stage may include:

  • Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
  • Autism Spectrum Rating Scale
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale – Second Edition
  • Social Responsiveness Scale

The DSM-5 also contains ASD diagnosis criteria.

Genetic testing

ASD can not be definitively diagnosed by genetic testing. Certain biomarkers that may suggest a condition may be checked, but this method is typically not a useful tool.

Are online autism tests accurate?

Online assessments are not methods for diagnosis. They can, however, help a person decide whether they should talk about ASD to a doctor or specialist.

Only screening instruments are evaluations from reputable, official organizations. They can not provide an official ASD diagnosis for a person.

M-CHAT, for instance, is a commonly used online screening method. Parents and caregivers may be encouraged to determine whether their child may have ASD, although it can not provide a definitive diagnosis.

In some cases, however, online tests can assist specialists with the diagnosis of ASD, but only as part of a more thorough evaluation process.

How to get a diagnosis

Parents and caregivers will determine whether to seek more specialist support through online screening tools.

If a person wants to confirm that he or she has an ASD diagnosis, they should talk to a doctor. If they have questions about their child having ASD, parents should speak to their pediatrician.

Supplementary screening tests can be given by a doctor. They may refer individuals to other specialists, depending on the findings.

Support and treatment

Autism may not have a cure, but many people with the condition will live independent lives.

It is possible to provide educational and behavioral strategies when a child receives a diagnosis. These can help children with their social and language skills. Examples of approaches to treatment include:

  • Applied behavior analysis: Uses behavioral reinforcement strategies to encourage certain behaviors. The different techniques include:
    • Discrete trial training
    • Early intensive behavioral intervention
    • Pivotal response training
    • Verbal behavior intervention
  • Occupational therapy: Helps children with fine and gross motor skills.
  • Sensory integration therapy: Helps those with ASD who are sensitive to bright lights, certain sounds, or smells to cope with sensory information.
  • Floortime: Also known as developmental, individual differences, relationship-based approach. A therapy technique where the parent, caregiver, or therapist follows the child’s lead in creating meaningful interactions, which promotes their development.

Social skills and communication strategies provide other treatment methods.

Drugs to treat some symptoms of ASD can also be administered by physicians, including:

For people with ASD who have serious behavioral issues, physicians can also prescribe antipsychotic drugs.

Summary

ASD is a neurological disorder that is normal. It does, however, affect individuals in various ways, which may make diagnosis difficult.

Early ASD diagnosis may assist those on the spectrum of autism to find help and learn to live independently. A diagnosis can also help people understand how such habits can be responded to.

Although online testing is an enticing choice for individuals who want to find out whether they or their child have ASD, it is no replacement for a trained medical professional’s official diagnosis.

A combination of assessment methods are used in diagnosis. ASD can only be correctly diagnosed by a physician, and even then, the diagnosis process can be complicated.

ADHD / ADD

What is Tourette syndrome (TS)?

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Tourette’s syndrome, often known as ‘Tourette syndrome,’ is a neurological illness characterized by a variety of bodily tics as well as at least one vocal tic. A few people with Tourette’s syndrome mistakenly say things that are inappropriate or obscene.

A tic is an uncontrollable movement or sound that a person experiences. Eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, facial, head, or limb movements, or producing strange sounds are all examples.

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to have tics.

According to the Tourette Association of America, Tourette’s syndrome affects 1 out of every 160 children in the United States.

Damage or abnormalities in the brain’s basal ganglia have been related to the condition.

Tourette syndrome

a boy having Tourette syndrome

The following are some important points to remember concerning Tourette’s syndrome:

  • A person with Tourette’s syndrome will have physical and vocal tics lasting more than a year.
  • It is a neurological disorder with symptoms that are made worse by stress.
  • Treatment includes medication and behavioral therapy.
  • Tourette’s does not have serious complications. However, it may be accompanied by other conditions, such as ADHD, and these can cause learning difficulties.

Tourette’s syndrome is one of several tic disorders that can cause both transitory and chronic tics. Tics can appear at any age. However, it is most common in children between the ages of six and eighteen.

Tics usually get less severe during adolescence and early adulthood. Tourette’s, on the other hand, might worsen as a person grows older.

The frequency and intensity of both mild and significant tics tend to change for most people. When a person is under physical, emotional, or mental stress, tics may become more frequent and strong.

The majority of people with Tourette’s have a normal IQ and life expectancy.

Symptoms

A tic is the most common symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. This might range from being scarcely detectable to being severe enough to make everyday life difficult.

The initial indicator could be a facial tic, such as eye blinking. Each individual, however, is unique.

A tic could be:

  • Physical: Motor movements include blinking or jerking the head or another part of the body.
  • Phonic: The person may utter sounds, such as grunts or squeaks, and words or phrases.

There are two main classifications:

  • Simple tic: This may involve moving just one muscle, or uttering a single sound. Movements are sudden, short lived, and often repetitive.
  • Complex tic: The physical movements are more complex, and the phonic tics may include long phrases. Complex tics involve several muscle groups.

Tourette’s syndrome is characterized by a combination of phonic and physical tics that might be simple or complex.

Simple physical tics

The following are some examples of simple physical tics:

  • eye blinking
  • eye darting
  • grinding the teeth
  • head jerking
  • neck twisting
  • nose twitching
  • rolling the eyes
  • rotating the shoulders
  • shoulder shrugging
  • sticking the tongue out

Simple phonic tics

Examples of simple phonic tics may include:

  • barking sounds
  • blowing
  • clearing the throat
  • coughing
  • grunting
  • hiccupping
  • sniffing
  • squeaking
  • yelling and screaming

Complex physical tics

Examples of complex physical tics may include:

  • copropraxia, or making obscene gestures
  • echopraxia, or miming the movements of other people
  • flapping
  • head shaking
  • hitting things
  • jumping or hopping
  • kicking things
  • shaking
  • smelling objects
  • touching oneself or others

Complex phonic tics

Examples of complex phonic tics include:

  • varying one’s voice intonation
  • echolalia, or repeating what other people say
  • paliphrasia, or saying the same phrase over and over again
  • coprolalia, which means uttering or shouting obscene words or phrases

Advanced warnings

Most people will experience unusual or uncomfortable sensations before the onset of a tic.

Types of advanced warning include:

  • a burning feeling in the eyes that is only alleviated by blinking
  • increasing tension in the muscles that can only be alleviated by stretching or twitching
  • a dry throat that is only alleviated by grunting or clearing the throat
  • itching in a limb or joint, where the only relief is achieved by twisting it

Situations that may cause tics to worsen include:

  • anxiety or stress
  • fatigue, or tiredness
  • illness, especially a streptococcal infection
  • excitement
  • a recent head injury

The Tourette Association of America’s Medical Advisory Board was asked by Medical News Today (MNT) what advice they would give to parents who suspect their child has Tourette’s.

They told us:

“Tourette Syndrome is characterized by motor and vocal tics longer than 12 months. If this is the case, then start with a visit to the child’s primary care physician for an evaluation. Talk to him or her to see if the tics are causing pain or discomfort, bothering him or her, or affecting schoolwork or desired activities.”

The Association offers tools for parents and educators, as well as information on how to find advocacy and support organizations, for people with Tourette’s and parents of children with the condition.

Tourette’s causes and risk factors

There is no known etiology for Tourette’s syndrome. However, it appears to be caused by a problem with the basal ganglia, the brain region that controls involuntary movements, emotion, and learning.

Experts believe that problems in the basal ganglia could lead to an imbalance in the amounts of brain neurotransmitters, which carry messages from one cell to the next. Tics can be caused by abnormal neurotransmitter levels that impede normal brain activity.

The basal ganglia are affected by Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other neurologic diseases.

Tourette’s syndrome is thought to be inherited and to have a genetic basis. A person with a tic is more likely to have one themselves if they have a close relative with one.

It also appears to be more common among prematurely born babies.

Another notion is that tics are caused by a childhood sickness. Tourette’s symptoms have been connected to infection with group A streptococcal bacteria.

It’s possible that the bacteria trigger the immune system to create antibodies that interact with brain tissue, resulting in brain alterations. This could have repercussions in terms of treatment. More research, however, is required.

Tourette syndrome diagnosis

Because there is no current test for Tourette’s, doctors must rely on signs, symptoms, and medical and family history to make a diagnosis.

The following criteria must be present for a Tourette’s diagnosis, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition:

  • Two or more motor tics (such as blinking or shrugging shoulders) and at least one vocal tic (such as humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase) are present, however they do not always occur simultaneously.
  • Tics have been present for at least a year. Tics can happen several times a day (typically in bouts), almost every day, or on and off.
  • Tics started before the person turned 18 years old.
  • The person is experiencing symptoms that are unrelated to any medications or other drugs they may be taking, or to any other medical condition they may be experiencing (such as seizures, Huntington disease, or postviral encephalitis).

Other conditions that could produce similar symptoms include:

  • allergies, if there is coughing and sniffing
  • dystonia, a neurological condition that includes involuntary movements and prolonged muscle contraction, leading to twisting body motions, abnormal posture, and tremor
  • restless leg syndrome, if movements affect the legs
  • problems with vision, if the patient blinks a lot

These and other medical disorders can be ruled out by blood testing, skin tests, eye exams, and imaging studies.

Tourette syndrome treatment

Medication and non-pharmacological treatments are commonly used in treatment. Surgery may be a possibility in some circumstances.

Antihypertensives, muscle relaxants, and neuroleptics are examples of medications.

Antihypertensives

Antihypertensives are drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure, sometimes known as hypertension. They may, however, aid patients with mild to moderate Tourette’s symptoms by controlling neurotransmitter levels.

Clonidine is one such example. Diarrhea or constipation, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are all possible side effects.

Muscle relaxants

Spasticity, or when muscles become overly stiff, is treated with muscle relaxants, which helps regulate physical tics. Baclofen and clonazepam are two examples. Drowsiness and dizziness are two common side effects.

Patients taking muscle relaxants should avoid drinking alcohol and should not drive or operate heavy machinery.

Neuroleptics

Neuroleptics work by blocking dopamine’s actions in the brain. They can be administered orally or intravenously. They can help with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Slow-release neuroleptics are injected every 2 to 6 weeks in some cases.

Drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, reduced libido, tremors, spasms, twitching, and weight gain are all possible side effects. There are some neuroleptics that have more side effects than others.

Patients should notify their doctor if side effects become an issue. They might be able to take alternative neuroleptics.

Non-pharmacological treatments

People with Tourette’s are frequently treated with behavioral treatment. It can aid in the modification of the patient’s behavior patterns.

Comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been shown in studies to benefit children and adults with Tourette’s syndrome. The goal of therapy is to treat symptoms by changing habits.

The concept of habit reversal is based on the following:

  • patients are unaware of their tics
  • the purpose of tics is to alleviate uncomfortable sensations before they occur

The therapist assists the patient in keeping track of their tics’ pattern and frequency. Any sensations that cause the tics are likewise pinpointed.

Once the patient is aware of the tic, they can devise a less obvious method of alleviating the unpleasant sensations it is causing. A competing answer is what this is referred to as.

If a person feels the need to grunt or clear their throat because of an unpleasant sensation in their throat, they can learn to soothe the sensation by taking a series of deep breaths instead.

The type of CBT used to lessen chronic tics in people with Tourette’s syndrome can also affect the way their brains work, according to a 2015 study.

Another study released in 2015 indicated that GABA, a brain neurotransmitter, may assist people with Tourette’s syndrome treat their tics.

Relaxation therapy is frequently used in habit reversal therapy. Tics might become more severe and frequent as a result of stress or anxiety. Deep breathing and visualization can help alleviate anxiety, which can lead to fewer and milder tics.

Are there any other options for treatment?

Self-hypnosis, according to an older study, may be useful. According to anecdotal evidence, a variety of dietary components, such as a larger intake of vitamin B or vitamin D, may also be beneficial. However, research has not backed up these claims.

The Medical Advisory Board of the Tourette Association told MNT:

“There is no evidence at present for the use of any alternative therapies for the treatment of Tourette. Simply put, these have not been studied yet for Tourette.”

Exercise and a well-balanced diet, on the other hand, can assist to reduce stress and improve one’s sense of well-being, which can help to minimize the severity and frequency of tics.

Surgery

Adult patients with severe symptoms who have failed to respond to previous therapies are usually candidates for surgery.

Limbic leucotomy

A limbic leucotomy is a procedure in which a small portion of the limbic system is burned away using an electric current or a pulse of radiation. This system is in charge of certain emotions, behaviors, and memories. A limbic leucotomy may partially or completely fix the condition.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

Electrodes are permanently implanted in parts of the brain known to be connected to Tourette’s in DBS. They’re linked to small generators that have been implanted in the body.

The electrodes receive an electronic pulse from the generator, which stimulates different parts of the brain. This may aid in the management of Tourette’s symptoms.

DBS’s long-term effects have yet to be proven.

Managing Tourette’s Syndrome

Participating in competitive sports, playing a fun computer game, or reading an interesting book are all activities that can help you manage your tics. However, for certain people, overexcitement can be a trigger, therefore some activities might have the opposite effect.

Many people, for example, learn to control their tics at work or school. Suppressing tics, on the other hand, may raise tension until the tic can be vented.

Tic types, frequency, and severity may fluctuate over time. Tics are more acute throughout the adolescent years. They do, however, generally improve throughout early adulthood.

Tourette syndrome complications

The intelligence of a person with Tourette syndrome is unaffected. However, if the person additionally has ADHD, OCD, or ASD, learning difficulties may occur.

Bullying at school can be difficult for a child with or without these additional issues, making schooling both socially and academically difficult.

Schools can help by informing kids about the disorder so that they can better comprehend a classmate who suffers from it.

Because the basal ganglia are involved in habit learning, people with Tourette’s may have difficulty doing so. Writing, reading, and arithmetic skills may be affected.

A child with Tourette syndrome may require extra educational assistance.

Conclusion

Tourette’s syndrome is a condition characterized by at least one verbal tic as well as a variety of bodily tics. The illness can strike at any age. It normally begins between the ages of six and eighteen.

There is no known cause for Tourette’s syndrome. It appears, however, to be caused by a dysfunction in the basal ganglia. Involuntary movements, movement, and learning are all controlled by this part of the brain.

Medication and non-pharmacological treatments are commonly used in treatment. Surgery is a possibility in some cases.

Competitive sports, playing a fun computer game, or reading a good book can all aid in the management of the condition. It is important to note, however, that for certain people, overexcitement can also be a trigger.

Sources

  • https://www.tourette.org/about-tourette/overview/living-tourette-syndrome/bullying-issues/
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712162541.htm
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/175009
  • https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/diagnosis.html#TS
  • https://www.tourette.org/about-tourette/overview/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3514747/
  • https://www.tourette.org/resources/overview/
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150625081617.htm
  • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Tourette-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet

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Autism

What is childhood schizophrenia?

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Schizophrenia in children is a rare type of schizophrenia, a psychiatric disorder.

Early development of schizophrenia starts at age 13 to 18. Schizophrenia very early on starts before a person reaches the age of 13.

In addition to the starting age, schizophrenia in the childhood is close to adult schizophrenia. Yet the signs may have various effects on children and adults. The effects can be more intense in people who experience them early on in the long term.

In this post, we concentrate on how children are affected by schizophrenia.

Childhood schizophrenia vs. autism

A child with schizophrenia may experience psychosis, delusions, and auditory hallucinations.
A child with schizophrenia may experience psychosis, delusions, and auditory hallucinations.

Several autistic children may have been given a schizophrenia diagnosis wrongly in the past. It remains a struggle to differentiate schizophrenia from the autism and other conditions.

Schizophrenia among children is rare, and some of the symptoms and risk factors may overlap with autism. Moreover, some family and genetic studies have reported differences between autism and schizophrenia in childhood.

As a result, it can take time in some unusual cases for children to get a proper diagnosis of schizophrenia. Doctors are expected to be much faster at diagnosing autism.

Symptoms

Schizophrenia symptoms in children are identical to those in adults, but they can have different implications.

The symptoms include:

  • psychosis
  • delusions
  • auditory hallucinations, in which the child hears voices
  • developmental delays
  • language difficulties
  • difficulty coping with school work and social relationships
  • trouble expressing or recognizing emotions, known as “flat affect”

During social interactions, emotional films, and cartoons, flat effect can be visible. It may also influence another person’s ability to recognise emotions by looking at their face.

Learn more on schizophrenia and its symptoms here.

Unusual characteristics from the early months of life are present in more than half of the children who go on to develop childhood schizophrenia.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that changes will occur gradually over time. Children who have made friends easily or have done well at school before could start finding these things difficult.

The AACAP add that parents and caregivers may notice that their child:

  • has unusual behavior or speech
  • has unusual or bizarre thoughts and ideas
  • confuses television and dreams with reality
  • seems confused in their thinking
  • experiences severe mood changes
  • shows changes in their personality
  • believes that someone is after them or talking about them (paranoia)
  • appears anxious and fearful
  • has difficulty relating to peers and maintaining friendships
  • becomes withdrawn and increasingly isolated
  • neglects their personal grooming

Perhaps the child is not always conscious that their perceptions are different from those of others.

Evidence shows that signs of schizophrenia can be more severe in children than in adults.

How does it feel to a child?

Prof Rochelle Caplan, an expert on schizophrenia in childhood, speaks in the video below about how the signs manifest and the impact they may have. The video was created by the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit organization.

Prof. Caplan explains how signs in most cases gradually arise. She explains how, for the child at first, the experience can be “very scary.” This may present similar anxiety to parents or carers.

Of example , the child may feel afraid, because the hallucinations or delusions can feel threatening.

The child will also have difficulty paying attention, and may become irritable or may have trouble sleeping. Professor Caplan notes that some of these changes can look like rebellious behavior.

Understanding what the child is feeling will allow the child’s parents and caregivers to respond in a positive way.

Early onset schizophrenia

Early onset schizophrenia is when a child aged 13–18 years is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, according to the authors of one case study.

Schizophrenia very early onset is when symptoms appear before age 13.

The researchers identify a child who has had unusual experiences from the age of three months.

There are no separate criteria for differentiating between schizophrenia in childhood and in adult.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of early onset schizophrenia can be difficult for physicians.

Another reason for this challenge is that it is a rare condition. Many conditions may also cause related habits and symptoms.

Examples may include:

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • personality disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • some types of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Autistic children may have characteristics that resemble those of schizophrenia, such as:

  • social withdrawal
  • unusual communication styles
  • avoiding eye contact

There is no specific diagnostic test for the disorder in children as with adult schizophrenia, so diagnosis depends on the exclusion of certain conditions and disorders that may explain the symptoms.

Doctors may use the same criterion for schizophrenia in infancy as for schizophrenia in adults.

Treatment

Children with schizophrenia can receive treatment.

Drugs called antipsychotics help with managing hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking. One example is clozapine (Clozaril) but another alternative could be suggested by a health care professional.

Depending on the drug, adverse effects can include:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • sleepiness
  • a low white blood cell count
  • movement side effects
  • weight gain
  • high fat levels in the blood and other metabolic symptoms

Try to take the medications, however, until a doctor changes the prescription. If a person stops taking them then the symptoms will return back.

Schizophrenia is not cured by antipsychotic treatments. In order to manage the symptoms and prevent psychosis the person will need to take medication throughout their lives.

Experts urge families to take an active role in caring for a loved one with schizophrenia and to help them deal with the ongoing difficulties.

Outlook

Schizophrenia is a disease which lasts for life. It can’t be cured or stopped, but therapy will help control it.

If a child has a schizophrenia diagnosis, their family and caregivers can help by learning about the condition as much as they can, by trying to understand how the child feels and by ensuring that they receive ongoing treatment.

Treatment may help many people with the condition go on to work and enjoy fulfilling relationships, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms.

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Autism

What to know about autism

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Autism or autism spectrum disorder causes a person to develop repetitive behavioral patterns and often impairs their social interactions with others.

According to the American Autism Association, physicians usually diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the childhood as symptoms can occur before age 3.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States suggest 1 in 59 children has ASD.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of ASD symptoms and severities. Many people with the disorder experience social problems debilitating while others may function more independently.

What is autism?

Distressed child
Autistic children may become distressed over breaks in their routine.

ASD is a paragliding term which represents a number of neurodevelopmental conditions.

The following conditions have been added to the ASD group in the newest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic guidelines, known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V),:

  • Asperger syndrome
  • childhood disintegrative disorder
  • pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified

Although there are different types of ASD, common experiences among people with the disorder include social impairment and the adoption of repetitive behaviors.

Some autistic children may tend to have symptoms from birth while others may show more noticeable signs as they get older.

Autism also has associations with other medical problems, such as complex epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), by the time they reach childhood an estimated 20-30 percent of autistic people develop epilepsy.

Characteristics and symptoms

ASD can affect a person’s social interaction and communication with a number of effects, including:

  • adoption of unusual speech patterns, such as using a robot-like tone
  • avoiding eye contact with others
  • not babbling or cooing to parents as an infant
  • not responding to their name
  • late development of speech skills
  • having difficulty with maintaining conversation
  • frequently repeating phrases
  • apparent difficulty in understanding feelings and expressing their own

An autistic person can also display repetitive or irregular behaviours, as well as impaired communication.

Examples of these include:

  • becoming so invested in a topic that it seems to consume them, such as cars, train timetables, or planes
  • becoming preoccupied with objects, such as a toy or household object
  • engaging in repetitive motions, such as rocking side to side
  • lining up or arranging toys or objects in very orderly ways

An autistic person may also experience motor or balance issues.

Around 1 in 10 autistic individuals show symptoms of savant syndrome, although this disorder can also occur in persons with other developmental disabilities or injuries to the nervous system.

Savant syndrome occurs when a person displays exceptional abilities in a particular field, such as playing a musical instrument, calculating extremely complex sums at high speed, reading two pages of a book at the same time, or being able to memorize vast amounts of knowledge.

Autistic individuals thrive on the routine and the ability to predict the outcomes of other actions and locations. A routine break or exposure to loud, over-stimulating environments can overwhelm an autistic person, resulting in anger outbursts, frustration, distress, or sadness.

No particular test could diagnose autism. Instead, doctors reach a diagnosis through parental reports of behavior, observation, and by ruling out other conditions.

For instance, if a child has undiagnosed hearing loss, the symptoms can resemble autism.

Causes

Currently, the causes of autism are not known, but there are significant numbers of studies under way to learn how it develops.

Researchers have identified several genes which appear to be related to ASD. Those genes also evolve by mutating spontaneously. People can inherit these in other cases.

Autism also presents a strong association between twins in twin studies. For example, if one twin has autism, according to the NINDS, the other is likely to have an estimated 36–95 percent of the time autism.

Autistic people may also undergo changes that affect their speech and behavior in key areas of their brains. Environmental factors may also play a role in ASD development although a link has not yet been confirmed by doctors.

Researchers do know, however, that other alleged causes, such as parenting practices, do not cause autism.

Do vaccines cause autism?

Another common misconception surrounding autism is that it may lead to autism by receiving vaccines, such as those for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

The CDC reports, however, that there is no known link between the vaccines and autism.

There is no link between vaccines and autism.

A 2013 study reported that in children who do and do not have ASD, the number of antibodies, or substances that cause the production of disease-fighting antibodies is same.

Some people say that thimerosal has ties to autism, a preservative that contains mercury and is in specific vaccines. Since 2003, though, at least nine different studies have provided evidence to counter that claim.

The Lancet journal published the initial paper that triggered the vaccine and autism controversy and withdrew it 12 years later, after evidence of data tampering, and research fraud became apparent. The author, Andrew Wakefield, was deprived of his qualifications and permission to practice by governing bodies.

Treatment

There is no uniform treatment for autism because each person with the condition presents differently.

There are treatments and approaches to address the health problems that frequently surround autism. These conditions can include epilepsy, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and sleep disorders.

Although not all of these therapies would be successful for all autistic people, there are plenty of ways to consider that may help people cope. Autism specialists or psychologists may refer a person to a treatment which represents their autism presentation.

Interventions

Among the treatment interventions that may be beneficial are:

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): In ABA, an instructor should first try to learn about the autistic person’s particular behaviors. They’ll also want to know about their environment’s impact on this activity, and how the individual learns. Using positive reinforcement, ABA aims to increase beneficial habits and reduce negative or isolating ones.

ABA can help improve your memory and communication

Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This form of behavioral therapy takes place during play, supporting children between the ages of 1 and 4.

A counselor, behavioral consultant, or occupational therapist may use collaborative games and play to help a child with a sense of fun develop healthy relationships. Parents and carers will then be able to continue the therapy at home.

ESDM promotes thinking abilities and communication skills.

Floortime: This includes parents joining children and creating relationships in the play area. ABA therapies can also use floortime for treatment support, and vice versa. Parents let the kids lead the game, allowing the children to grow their strengths.

Through this dedication, an autistic child will learn bidirectional and complex communication, emotional reasoning, and intimacy. They also learn to take the lead in controlling themselves and becoming involved with the environment.

Occupational therapy (OT): This helps an autistic person develop and learn communication skills for daily life.

These abilities include unassisted dressing, basic grooming and hygiene and fine motor skills. Then, autistic people should exercise these skills during the therapy sessions, which typically take 30–60 minutes.

Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): This program helps to enhance optimism and the ability of autistic children to respond to motivational signals. It is a therapy focused on play, focusing on natural reinforcement.

A teacher teaching the class
Many therapies for autism revolve around helping caregivers and teachers provide support.

For instance, if a child wants a toy car and asks for it in a appropriate manner, they get the toy car, not an arbitrary reward, like candy. This often allows autistic children to initiate social interactions, rather than simply respond to them.

Relationship development intervention (RDI): This approach focuses on the value of creative thinking, or the ability to flexibly change thoughts and manage circumstances to help enhance quality of life in autistic people.

RDI’s focus is on knowing the experiences of others, processing change, and receiving information from many sources at once, including sight and sound, without feeling discomfort.

Speech therapy: This helps overcome the communication difficulties that autistic people can experience.

Assistance may involve matching facial expressions with feelings, learning how to interpret body language, and answering questions. Also, a speech therapist will seek to teach the complexities of vocal tone and help improve the individual’s voice and clarity.

TEACCH: This program helps to integrate autistic children’s needs into a classroom environment, with an emphasis on visual learning and support for the potential difficulties in attention and communication.

This program can be used by special education agencies and social workers as well as medical practitioners who offer other services — such as psychologists and speech therapists — to help autistic children.

Verbal behavior therapy (VBT): This helps to relate language and sense to autistic children. VBT practitioners focus not on words but on the reasons to use them.

Medications

If a doctor prescribes medicine for an autistic child or adult, they will usually try to deal with seizures, depression or sleep disturbance.

Again, on a case-by-case basis, medications may or may not be right for an autistic person.

Click here for a helpful aid to break down which options are best for a specific set of symptoms.

Coping strategies and skills

Autistic children also acquire a number of strategies that can help them manage the condition’s isolating effects.

Such behaviors are the child’s attempts to protect themselves from stimuli that can confuse them and increase sensory input to enhance feeling. These actions can also be practiced to put some level of organization of reasoning into their everyday lives.

Although not all of the autism coping strategies are harmful, some may inhibit social interaction and contribute to isolation and distress.

These behaviors include:

  • isolating themselves and avoiding contact with others
  • repetitive patterns while playing and relying on familiar occurrences during the day
  • talking to themselves, humming, or whistling
  • becoming highly attached to preferred objects
  • choosing to seek out or avoid certain experiences to an extreme extent

The important factor in managing behaviors that are potentially isolated is not to discourage these behaviours, but to add other coping strategies that can facilitate a child’s journey through autism, such as:

  • seeking help
  • using language more openly
  • relaxing and taking breaks
  • making their needs clear
  • managing sensory input

The following are effective ways to achieve this:

  • understanding that speech processing may undergo delays and accounting for this when speaking to an autistic child
  • restricting noise, movement, and the presence of nearby objects to help a child concentrate when presenting information to them
  • helping a child structure activities by giving the order-based cues, such as “First, do this, then…” or “Get ready… get set … go!”
  • demonstrating appropriate adult socialization in front of the autistic child
  • clearly defining a play space by using visual markers, such as beanbags, to promote a feeling of safety around other children
  • making sure information about events is both clear and visible, in terms of routine activities and those that fall outside of routine and may cause distress
  • running through and practicing these coping strategies during play

Different individuals encounter ASD of different extent and a number of behaviours. However, these techniques and skills will enable each person with the condition to increase the resources available, and enhance their quality of life.

Research

Autism doesn’t get healed. Researchers are therefore researching almost every aspect of the disease, from its causes to possible treatments.

Drugs and mental health therapies may change the effects of the disorder in some autistic people and enable a person to work independently at adulthood.

The symptoms and coexisting conditions, such as epilepsy, may require further management and support for others.

Researchers in laboratory making their research
Research is helping to identify possible causes of and treatments for autism.

Some of the most notable developments in autism studies include:

A 2017 report in Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Sciences analyzed 32 children who received intranasal oxytocin or placebo as a treatment. The study showed that children taking oxytocin were exhibiting increased social functioning. Previously, the study leaders had found that low levels of oxytocin had linkages with lower social performance.

Research at the 2018 American Society of Human Genetics identified 43 previously unknown genetic sequences linked to developmental delays, including autism.

The ongoing research of Deciphering Developmental Disorders is currently looking at undiagnosed conditions in over 12,000 individuals in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The goal of the research is to try to understand these developmental disabilities and support those kids and adults who encounter them, plus scientists and clinicians.

A 2017 research in the journal Nature found that autistic children’s brain development has connections to the extent of the disease. The researchers have theorized that this knowledge could help doctors diagnose autism earlier than ever.

Such studies are only a few examples of ongoing initiatives that may aid in potential ASD diagnosis and care.

Outlook

In the United States, doctors treat a person with ASD every 11 minutes according to the American Autism Association.

A combination of ASD education and earlier recognition means people will get early care for the disorder. Ideally a person should undergo therapy and treatments as soon as possible to improve their quality of life.

Takeaway

Autism or ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, which causes social interaction problems and encourages strict adherence to routines and predictable patterns.

There are various types of ASD and its severities. Some autistic people will live independently while others require more sustained treatment and support.

The causes are unknown at present, but researchers have identified several genes that may have links to ASD growth. None of the vaccines cause autism.

Work is continuing, and interventions are underway which may enhance the quality of life for autistic people. Present treatments include occupational therapy, speech therapy, and communication assistance in different types.

Question:

As an adult, is it likely that I have undiagnosed autism? I demonstrate a lot of the symptoms.

Answer:

Yeah, there are times when people with mild autism symptoms are not treated until adulthood.

Autism symptoms can mimic symptoms of other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, leading to uncertainty about an accurate diagnosis.

Occasionally, after getting a child diagnosed with autism, physicians can label an person with autism, and the person experiences signs in themselves.

Answers represent our medical experts’ opinions. All material is purely informational and medical advice should not be considered.

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