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Health Tips: What You Need to Know About Autism

by Karen Rollins Jan 6, 2020

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Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a term that refers to a broad range of complex conditions.

The dictionary defines autism as: “A developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterised by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.”

People who have autism usually experience the world differently. They struggle to communicate verbally and non-verbally and may face emotional and physical challenges of various severity.

Who is affected?

Autism usually begins in early childhood and lasts for a person’s entire life.

Autism is a spectrum condition, which means it affects each person differently and to varying degrees. It is not a disease or illness and cannot be cured.

What causes autism?

Experts are still trying to work out the exact cause of autism.

Research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a part in developmental differences.

What are the different types of autism?

There are three main types of autism:

– Autistic disorder.

– Asperger syndrome.

– Pervasive Developmental Disorder / Not Otherwise Specified.

Autistic disorder is sometimes called ‘classic’ autism. Children with this condition usually cannot speak or struggle to speak, do not interact socially, have non-verbal communication challenges, and exhibit unusual behaviours and interests. They may also have problems with learning and development.

Asperger syndrome is a milder form of autism. People with Asperger Syndrome do not usually have an intellectual disability or problems with speech. They can have unusual behaviours and interests as well as social interaction issues.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified is sometimes called “atypical autism,” or PDD-NOS.

People with PDD-NOS have some of the signs of autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but their symptoms are fewer and milder. They primarily have social and communication challenges.

Upset lonely african kid girl holding teddy bear looking away

How is autism diagnosed?

To be diagnosed as autistic, a person will usually have had persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction from early childhood.

They may also have repetitive and restrictive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities, which impact or limit their ability to function.

How is autism treated?

There is no cure for autism, but people have found a range of early-intervention strategies, methods and approaches can help children living with the condition.

Anything else?

It is important for the parents of autistic children to know that they are not alone. Several autistic organisations offer information, free resources and tools online which can help.

You should talk to your GP if you have any questions.

Sources: National Autistic Society / Autism Speaks / WebMD / The Autism Society