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Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder


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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that commonly starts early in childhood and lasts a lifetime. There are several developmental conditions, and ASD is one of them. Other developmental conditions include psychiatric disorders like learning disorders, language disorders, and motor disorders. A person or child with ASD has difficulty with social interaction, communication, and expresses repeated behaviours and intense interests.


The word spectrum in ASD indicates a wide range of clinical presentations from mild to severe forms. ASD manifests differently from one person to another. There are different types of ASD, and they encounter a variety of challenges and possess a wide range of abilities. Classical autism (most common), Asperger Syndrome, Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, and Fragile X Syndrome are examples of types of ASD.


The precise cause (or causes) of ASD is still unknown for now. Researchers, however, have demonstrated that genetics play a role. If you have a relative or another child who has ASD, the chances of your baby or child developing ASD are bigger, especially among twins and siblings. ASD may also be linked to certain brain conditions such as maternal rubella and encephalitis. Environmental factors before, during and after birth may also contribute to its development. ASD usually starts before the age of three, though a few are diagnosed during their teen and adult years. Unfortunately, some aren’t diagnosed at all and live their lives not knowing that they have ASD.

How common is ASD?



No matter where you go or live, the incidence of ASD is rising. Experts are speculating that this is due to earlier diagnosis and awareness among healthcare experts and parents respectively. ASD is nearly five times more common in boys than in girls.

Country or PlaceHow common ASD is
New ZealandAffects 1 in 66 children.
Approximately 65,000 New Zealanders are dealing with ASD.
AustraliaIt’s estimated that 115,400 Australians have autism.
UKMore than 1 in 100 children.
Approximately 700,000.
The Rest of EuropeIt’s estimated that 1-2% of the European population has ASD.
USAbout 1 in 68 children.
More than 3.5 million Americans.
CanadaSame as the US, 1 in 68 children.
China1 in every 1,000 of the population.
Worldwide1% of the world’s population has ASD.
The current world population at the time of this writing is 7.5 billion. You do the math.
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Clues that Your Child may have ASD



Children with ASD have problems in three main areas of their lives: social interaction, communication and behaviour (they possess repetitive behaviour or interests). Here are some ways for you to detect if they might have ASD:



The clues listed above are based on the DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for ASD. DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Don’t worry, it’s just a system that psychologists and psychiatrists use to qualify the signs and symptoms of psychiatric illnesses.


Note: If you observe any or all of the clues above in your child, please schedule an appointment with your paediatrician or family doctor as soon as possible.

The Bottom Line



Familiarise yourself with the common signs of ASD. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the treatment options are. Don’t just label a child or an adult as autistic. The best you can do when you suspect ASD is to leave it to the health experts to diagnose. ASD is a lifelong disability, but that isn’t a prison sentence. With the proper guidance, they can receive early intervention and be enrolled in support programmes to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.



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