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By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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What is Autism?

Autism, or ASM which stands for autism spectrum disorder, represents the general term utilized by scientists to describe a complex group of brain disorders that appear during its development. In majority of cases, they occur during the first three or four years of life and, as a result, the individual’s social, communication, and behavioral skills are negatively affected.
The word used to describe this condition comes from the Greek language, specifically the word “autos” which means “self.” The reason behind this choice relies in the fact that a person who suffers from ASD has less to no interaction with other people, thus it can be regarded as an isolated self.

The first person who used this term was Eugen Bleuler. However, this word was initially used to describe a group of schizophrenia symptoms. It was later on, in 1940 that researchers from the United States started to use this word as a reference towards children who had social and emotional problems. While Leo Kraner from John Hopkins University used the word to describe certain behavioral of children who were withdrawn in their own world, a German named Hans Asperger found a similar condition, but called it Asperger’s syndrome. Although it was observed in a more specific realm, the term “autism” was linked to schizophrenia until 1960s.


Even though until recently, scientists believed that there was no real explanation behind the development of this condition, it was further studying which revealed that there was indeed no particular reason, but a combination of causes. These are generally environmental factors and certain genes related to autism.

Alongside the genetic predisposition towards autism, there are a series of environmental stressors which may enhance the child’s possibility of suffering from this condition. The most powerful influencers are the non-genetic factors which exist around the mother prior and during the pregnancy. Some examples of these are the ages of the father and mother at the time of procreation, difficulties at the time of birth, specifically those which involve times of oxygen deprivation for the kid, and certain maternal illnesses which may appear during the pregnancy if the mother doesn’t properly take care of herself.

Annually, approximately fifteen percent from the children suffering from autism don’t have a specific related cause and because of this, it is believed that there is a link between this condition and an immunization to people who have a genetic predisposition towards it. Even though further research may be required in this field, most of the situations in which this condition appears are linked to a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors.

Signs & Symptoms

Most of the symptoms associated with autism are linked to three main fields which are nonverbal and verbal communication, social relationships, and interactions and limited interests towards playing or other activities.

For instance, in the area regarding social interactions, the symptoms include failures in establishing friendships with kids of similar ages, an interest lack in sharing their interests, enjoyments, and achievements with their parents or close relatives, difficulties in perceiving human emotions like sorrow, pain, or love, and noticeable issues linked to the nonverbal communication development which include facial expressions, bodily postures, and eye-to-eye gazing.

Furthermore, regarding the communication area, children may express a delay in learning how to talk (40% of autistic people don’t speak), issues when it comes to the start of a conversation, repetitive, and stereotyped language utilization with repeated phrases and difficulties when it comes to the understanding of the communicator’s perspective. The last one is linked to the inability to understand changes in a person’s tonality while speaking, thus things like sarcasm and irony may go unspotted and those with autism may not even understand jokes.

In the activity interest field, kids may experience symptoms like an abnormal focus towards pieces like the wheels of a car or pieces of an airplane, rather than wanting to play with them, a preoccupation with some specific topics such as trading cards or video games, and some stereotyped behaviors such as body rocking.

However, these symptoms vary from childhood to adulthood and as the condition goes non-treated, it may reach a level in which they are an obstacle to a normal life.

Diagnosing Autism

When a parent notices that their kid doesn’t make eye contact or doesn’t respond to their name in a repetitive way while playing, they should think about going to a specialized doctor because their child may suffer from autism. Although most doctors who aren’t specialized in this area generally dismiss the concern of the parent, if the condition persists some further testing is required.

A typical evaluation of autism implies a team of doctors with various disciplines such as language pathologist, occupational therapist and pediatrician psychologist. Furthermore, genetic testing is also recommended alongside screening for some linked medical problems like sleeping difficulties.

There are some situations in which the disorder is discovered during the teenager years or even later in life and the diagnosis gives a sense of relief for those that have gone the entire life without understanding why their interest were so different and never felt fully accepted in the social area.

Treatment for Autism

First of all, children who are diagnosed with autism should be given a specialized and structured treatment. There are a wide array of programs which address both parents and children and help them enhance social, communication, adaptive, social, and learning skills in order to have a chance at integrating in the normal world. The most popular programs are behavioral management and training and some specialized therapies like physical and occupational therapy.

On the other hand, if the disorder has reached a critical level, some prescribed medication may be added to the therapy, but in most cases there are actually a symptom relief for some related conditions like hyperactivity, depression, and anxiety.

For those who fear the possibility of side-effects which usually appear with medication, other natural approaches such as dietary supplements can be tried. If this decision is made, people should look for supplements that feature ingredients like Melatonin, Tetrahydrobiopterin, Vitamin C, L-carnitine, and Carnosine. It is important that the product’s label and dosages are followed accordingly in order to avoid potential bodily harm.