What is Autism?
Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both umbrella terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders deal with problems in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, in varying degrees. It can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. They include autistic disorder (also known as "classic autism"), Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger syndrome.
How are Autism Spectrum Disorders defined?
ASDs are defined by difficulty in three areas of behaviors: 1) reciprocal social interaction, 2) communication, and 3) repetition and insistence on sameness. These conditions impact different individuals in different degrees. There is no one behavior that is present in all individuals with ASDs. Many, but not all, individuals with ASD have language delays.
What are the early autism signs in a baby?
These early signs start occurring when your baby is just a year old.
• No frequent eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed)
• No big smiles or cheerful expressions
• No response to his/her name
• No response to the sound of a familiar voice
• Doesn't follow objects visually
• Doesn't use gestures to communicate (e.g. waving goodbye or pointing at objects)
• Doesn't look at objects that you point out
• Rarely makes noise to get your attention
• Doesn't respond to cuddling
• No babbling
• Regression in the activities and speech
What causes autism?
Just as there is no one type of autism, there is no one single and specific cause of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes or mutations associated with autism. The clearest evidence of these environmental risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal illness during pregnancy, extreme prematurity and very low birth weight and certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby's brain. Mothers exposed to high levels of pesticides and air pollution may also be at a higher risk of having a child with ASD. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. These combined with genetic risk factor increases the chances.