|Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition that affects and creates problems with communication and behavior and can include a wide range of symptoms and skills. Autism can also differ in gravity for each affected individual / Photo by Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF|
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition that affects and creates problems with communication and behavior and can include a wide range of symptoms and skills. Autism can also differ in gravity for each affected individual—it can be a minor problem that does not require much treatment, or it can be a problem that needs full-time care wherein the affected will need a special facility. People with autism tend to have trouble communicating and understanding what others think and feel, making it a challenge to express themselves with words and even more so with other forms of communication such as gestures, facial expressions, and physical touch. They also tend to have difficulties with learning, having to go through uneven mental development. On the other hand, people with autism may also develop extreme expertise in specific areas to compensate for what they lack. A common case includes an autistic child that has trouble communicating but is actually especially good at art, music, memory, or math.
By The Numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the prevalence of autism in children in the United States to be 1 in 59 people in 2018. This was a huge increase in autism instances since 1970 when it was almost 1 in 10,000 people having the condition. From 1995, the prevalence of autism shot up to 1 in 1,000, reached 1 in 500 people in 1999, 1 in 250 people in 2000, 1 in 150 people in 2002, 1 in 125 people in 2004, 1 in 110 people in 2006, 1 in 88 people in 2008, and 1 in 68 people in 2014 and 2016. Many are saying that the prevalence rate is connected to better diagnosis and detection compared to many years ago, with cases of intellectual disability being bulked and automatically included as autism. Regardless, numbers have shown that autism is the single disorder dramatically on the rise versus mental retardation, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, or cystic fibrosis, which have remained relatively stagnant.
The Autism Community in Action (TACA) shared that an estimated 1 out of 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls are diagnosed with autism in the US, with boys four times more likely than girls to have the affliction, and an estimated three million individuals affected with autism in the US. Not only is autism the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the country, but it is also reaching new heights in terms of costliness. Autism, as shared by TACA, costs the US more than $268 billion a year, with the figure expected to increase in the next decade. By 2025, the projected cost of autism to society is expected to reach $1 trillion annually. In 2005, annual cost by society for autism was $35 billion and rose to $137 billion in 2008. It continues to rise until today.
Autism Signs and Symptoms
Autism is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. ASD-diagnosed individuals often demonstrate repetitive, stereotyped-interest patterns of behavior. The increase in prevalence has been said to be linked to the frequent diagnosis of the disorder. To this day, there is no medical detection or known cure for autism, but signs and symptoms are evident during early childhood, between 12 months to 24 months old, and may appear earlier or later depending on the individual. With notable problems with communication and social interaction, the individual shows difficulty when sharing emotions, communicating, sharing interests, and even maintaining back-and-forth conversations. Restricted patterns of behavior or activities include repetitive movements, motions, or speech patterns, even including strict adherence to routine and patterns, sensitivity to specific information, negative reactions to a specific sound, and fixated interests or preoccupations.
What causes ASD or autism is unknown to this day as mentioned by Healthline, an online informational site about medical news and general topics. Many research have demonstrated that there is no single cause, but there are a few suspected causes: having an immediate family member with autism, certain genetic mutations, fragile syndromes and genetic disorders, being born to older parents, low birth weight, exposure to heavy metals, toxins, or chemicals during the mother’s pregnancy, certain history of viral infections, exposure medications, and many more. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), it is both environment and genetics that determine whether a person develops autism. Although some research also point to certain vaccines causing autism such as measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR), this has not been completely proven with evidence, with several research even retracted in 2010.
Tests used to screen autism include genetic testing, behavioral evaluation, visual and audio test, as well as questionnaires known as Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Teams that conduct testing include psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists. Autism also has no known cures. But medical treatments in the form of therapy and other methods can alleviate symptoms. Commonly used include behavioral therapy, play therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and others. Results of the treatment may vary as there is no one specific cure to autism, with some responding positively and others with no effect at all. Many also turn to high-doses of vitamins, melatonin, and chelation, which involves flushing off metals from the body.
In addition, diet has not been found to cause significant changes or improvements in individuals with autism. Although many prefer to avoid preservatives, sweeteners, and food colors and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean poultry, fish, unsaturated fats, and lots of water. There is no known cure for ASD, with the most effective treatments involving early and intensive behavioral intervention such as enrolling the child in programs.
Because much is still unknown about autism, the most we can do as individuals to lower the risk of having children who have autism is to live healthy, have regular check-ups, eat balanced meals, and exercise. If by chance you already have one, make sure to have good parental care to the affected child, as well as ensure all vitamins and minerals or supplements are taken. Live the best life, and try your best to give the best life to your child. That's really all that any parent, grandparent, or family can do for their loved one or relative.