If you’re the parent of a child with autism, then you know the importance of reliable treatments and up-to-date information. At Pediatrics East, we’re here to be your dedicated childhood autism resource.
According to the CDC, one in every 59 children in the U.S. has some form of spectrum disorder. Male children are four times more likely to have autism than female children, making Autism Spectrum Disorder one of the more common childhood issues we treat.
What Is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication, and behavioral issues at varying degrees of severity. ASD refers to a wide variety of disorders, hence the term “being on the spectrum.” It’s important to understand that no two cases of autism are exactly the same and children with autism all experience their own set of challenges and have their own strengths. Usually, this bio-neurological disability presents before the age of 3.
While autism spectrum disorders can mean life-long care for some individuals, the majority of children on the spectrum live high functioning, normal lives. Symptoms can lessen over time with the correct treatment, although success looks different for everyone.
Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders
As we mentioned, autism spectrum disorders encompass several different “types” of autism. Here are the most common forms.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of “high functioning” autism, though it can also be mild to severe. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome are just as smart as their peers but have difficulty recognizing social cues. They might struggle with social situations, or become hyper-focused/obsessed with one topic or another, and even exhibit some other spectrum tendencies such as OCD or ADHD. Some children with AS may also have difficulty talking or writing. Difficulty making eye contact, and understanding boundaries are common symptoms of Asperger’s.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
This long term, also referred to as PDD-NOS, is the term that health care professionals use to describe individuals who have some but not all of the characteristics of classic autism. They may excel in some areas but struggle predominantly with certain social interactions. In some cases, symptoms of PDD-NOS are overlapping with those of Asperger’s Syndrome, but by and large only exhibit mild, non-pervasive symptoms.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Childhood disintegrative disorder also called Heller’s Syndrome is a rare spectrum disorder affecting 1.7 in every 100,000 children. The key characteristic of Heller’s Syndrome is the meeting of normal physical, emotional, and social milestones followed by the sudden rapid regression of these skills. This can affect social, language, and motor functions, and the cause is unknown.
What Causes Autism?
While the exact cause of ASDs is unknown, most healthcare experts agree that there are genetic risk factors, along with environmental attributes before, during, and after birth that can contribute to the development of autism. Children with family members who also have autism are at a higher risk of having an autism spectrum disorder, as well as children of older parents, a child with low birth weight, and other metabolic imbalances.
Symptoms of Autism
Usually, the symptoms of autism are broken up into three categories: Social, communication, and behavior.
Social Symptoms Include:
- Don’t respond to their own name by 12 months
- Normal social skills like playing or sharing don’t interest them
- Prefers playing alone
- May reject physical contact
- Avoids eye contact
- Difficulty understanding emotions
Communication Symptoms Include:
- Delayed language skills
- Repeating a phrase again and again
- Difficulty with pronouns
- Difficulty staying on one topic
- Missing social cues like sarcasm
Behavior Symptoms Include:
- Repetitive behaviors
- Difficulty being flexible when it comes to routines
- Sensory processing issues like sensitivity to light
- Picky eating
- Short attention span
There is no cure for Autism. However, in combination with a variety of different therapies based on need and medications to treat associated medical conditions, children with an autism spectrum disorder often grow up and experience happy, fulfilling lives. Your pediatrician can help you determine the best treatment option for your child.
We Are Your Autism Resource
Pediatrics East has been helping families all over the mid-south for many years. Our compassionate, experienced staff and providers have the expertise you need if you suspect a diagnosis of autism, or have a child with an ASD. The best way to catch these issues early on is with regular well-child visits where your pediatrician will monitor your child’s development. We recommend establishing a relationship with your pediatrician even before your baby is born. To learn more, reach out today.