Common Questions about Autism

April 5, 2016

Whether your child has been diagnosed with autism or you merely know of someone who has it, chances are you have questions.  You probably have a lot of questions.  In an effort to increase awareness during this Autism Awareness Month here are some of the most common questions surrounding this disorder.

  • What is Autism? Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. Depending upon the child and the severity of the disorder there are usually difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
  • How Common is Autism? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence over the last 40 years. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans may be affected with autism. Also, recent studies suggest boys are more susceptible than girls to developing autism.
  • What are the Most Common Characteristics of Autism?  Every person with autism is an individual, and like all individuals, has a unique personality and combination of characteristics. Some individuals mildly affected may exhibit only slight delays in language and greater challenges with social interactions. They may have difficulty initiating and/or maintaining a conversation. Their communication is often described as talking at others instead of to them.
  • What Causes Autism? While experts agree that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. Research has identified more than a hundred autism risk genes. In around 15 percent of cases, a specific genetic cause of a person’s autism can be identified. However, most cases involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development.
  • What Symptoms should I be aware of if I Suspect My Child has Autism? Symptoms/behaviors of ASDs can range from mild to severe, and may seem to appear gradually or suddenly. A typical development may be observed from birth, or more commonly, become noticeable during the 12- to 36-month period. Symptoms include: social interaction difficulties, communications difficulties,  and repetitive behaviors. The Mayo Clinic has a complete list of symptoms.
  • What Treatments Should I Investigate? Early Intervention Services when your child is an infant and toddler are a great place to start. The Autism Treatment Network (ATN) is a ground-breaking network of hospitals, physicians, researchers and families at 17 locations across the United States and Canada. ATN clinicians work together to develop the most effective approach to medical care for children and adolescents affected by autism.