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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)–often simply known as autism–is a category of developmental or neurodevelopmental disabilities characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and/or nonverbal communication. The condition is considered a spectrum due to the wide array of symptoms and severities that people experience.
Though the exact cause of autism is currently not known, research suggests a variety of genetic and environmental factors have an impact on brain development. Symptoms can appear in children as young as one year, but may not appear until age 5 or 6.
Often, parents notice their child having trouble maintaining eye contact, unable to sit still, preoccupied with repetitive movements and struggling to understand nonverbal cues.
There is no medical cure for autism, but early intervention and therapeutic treatments have proven beneficial in reducing symptoms and improving independence.
Know the Signs
Beginning in early childhood, parents of a child with autism may notice issues with recognizing and expressing their emotions, gauging personal space, carrying on a conversation or interpreting changes in another’s tone of voice. Repetitive and ritualistic behaviors are also common; as are a need for sameness and difficulty with changes and transitions.
The Importance of Early Intervention
If you identify two or more of these symptoms in your child or loved one, you should consult with your pediatrician or family doctor. The sooner your child or loved one is evaluated and diagnosed, the better. Treating ASD early, which is called early intervention, has been proven to offer lasting results.
In fact, if a diagnosis is confirmed before age two, children can get into intensive programs sooner and, thanks to the developing nature of their brains, make significant positive gains. Young children are able to absorb more new information and retain teachings in the long-term, helping them to acclimate more in social and societal settings.
In the case of children with mild or minor symptoms, intensive intervention can even result in the resolution of symptoms and the ability to lead a normal life. These children are also able to achieve higher intelligence quotients (IQs).
Early intervention programs target basic life skills like communication, emotional intelligence, analysis of social cues, critical thinking and coordination. The programs often include family and speech training, physical therapy and frequent primary care check-ups.
Click to learn more about ASD screening or early intervention programs at Inspira.
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