Autism Spectrum Disorder

Understanding the autism spectrum disorder

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Sometimes referred to as ASD, autism spectrum disorder is an umbrella term for a range of developmental mental disorders. The causes of these disorders are not fully understood, but it is known that the normal development of the nervous system is not always present in adults with ASD, which impacts on brain function. However, autism spectrum disorder has some family link, because people with a family member who has been diagnosed with an ASD condition are statistically more likely to have one themselves. The spectrum of disorders impacts on people in very different ways but it will typically mean they have to work harder to maintain a relationship, to hold down a job or to carry out certain tasks that others might find easy.

 Is autism spectrum disorder the same as autism?

No, it is not. Autism is a specific condition that is connected to problems with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviour. As such, autism is just one form of ASD. Autism spectrum disorders also include Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. Until recently, Rett syndrome was thought of as a type of autism spectrum disorder by medical science, but this is now not counted as part of the spectrum because it is understood to be caused by a specific genetic mutation.

Can autism spectrum disorder be cured?

Autism spectrum disorder is an incurable condition. It has no medication therapy that has been developed so far, either. What treatments are available are targeted at some of the specific symptoms that people with ASD present with. For example, there are some drug therapies that are known to help deal with certain types of seizure that are associated with the condition.

What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?

Many of the symptoms associated with the different types of autism spectrum disorder are behavioural and only by studying them may it be possible for a professional to determine which disorder an individual has. Sometimes this might be an inability to grasp concepts or to interact socially in certain situations. Abnormal reactions to sounds, touch or sights can also be a common behavioural symptom of the spectrum, too. Developmental symptoms include things like children who don't respond to their name or failing to engage with people's faces, especially when interacting one-on-one. Many people with an autism spectrum disorder will show it in how they speak. Rigid use of a language and sticking to a single topic in a monologue fashion are common linguistic traits.

How is autism spectrum disorder treated?

Early intervention with the education of children who have certain types of ASD is known to be a big help for their intellectual development. Speech and language therapy, as well as occupational therapies, tend to be used. In the case of Asperger's syndrome, sufferers often develop their own techniques for getting around the condition. They require little by way of help other than a degree of societal understanding.

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