What is Autism?

Autism is a life-long developmental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to interact with the world around them.

While we have all heard about autism, most of us have only vague ideas of what the diagnosis means. Individuals with autism have difficulties making friends and participating in everyday social interactions. They often have restricted interests and behavioral patterns, and find comfort in routine and repetition.

Since it is a spectrum disorder, autism affects children in different ways, and no two autistic children are exactly alike. This makes things very confusing for parents who are battling to come to terms with what is best for their child, as signs of autism vary greatly. It may be helpful to devise an autism symptoms checklist to aid in diagnosing the disorder.

What Causes Autism?

There is no known single cause of autism.

It is known that autism is a neurological disorder, and that there are differences in the shape and the structure of the brain of autistic children as opposed to non-autistic children – although this is not always the case. 

While it is not known whether autism has a genetic link, the exact genes involved are unclear. Families with one autistic child have 3% – 5% chance of having a second autistic child (this differs to the 0.5% risk of the general population).

Certain ‘triggers’ have been implicated as possible precipitators of the disorder. These could include problems in pregnancy and birth, viral infections, exposure to certain environmental chemicals or pollutants, or even allergies to certain foods (i.e. gluten or dairy products).

There are also suggestions that autism may be caused by a reaction to childhood vaccines, especially those containing high amounts of mercury. Obviously more research is needed in this area.

It is important for parents to note that autism is not a mental illness and is NOT caused by bad parenting or problems in the home.

Help for Autism

While there are many different theories about the best course of treatment for autism, most professionals agree that the earlier treatment begins, the better the chances are that the child will be helped.

While there is a place for prescription medication in certain cases of autism, careful consideration and caution should be taken due to possible side effects.

There are also natural treatments for autism, including herbal and homeopathic remedies which can help maintain harmony, health, and systemic balance in the brain and nervous system, without side effects or sedation.

The best results are usually achieved by using a multidisciplinary approach and combining different therapies. It may take some time and experimentation to find the right combination of therapies for the individual.

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