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Autism

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Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by impaired development of behaviour, communication or language, and social interaction. People with this condition often demonstrate repetitive and restricted patterns of behaviour and interests. It is found in people from all over the world regardless of ethnicity, race, culture or economic background; however, it affects more boys than girls.

Causes of Autism

Autism does not have a specific cause, but it can have many causes because the condition covers a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, here are some suspected risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition.

  • Certain genetic mutations.
  • Having an immediate family member who’s autistic.
  • Genetic disorders like the Fragile X syndrome.
  • A maternal history of viral infections.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Maternal prenatal medication use, gestational diabetes, or bleeding.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals.
  • Metabolic imbalances.
  • The exposure of a foetus to medications like valproic acid or thalidomide (Thalomid).
  • Being born to older parents.

Autism can also be a symptom of any of these disorders:

  • Cerebral dysgenesis (abnormal development of the brain).
  • Some inborn errors of metabolism (biochemical defects).
  • Tuberous sclerosis and the fragile X syndrome (inherited disorder).
  • Rett syndrome (a mutation of a single gene).

Symptoms of Autism

The symptoms of autism become evident as early as the ages of 12 to 24 months. The early signs of this condition include a delay in language or social development, but the symptoms can be divided into these two categories. 

  • Repetitive or restricted patterns of activities or behaviour.
  • Problems with communication and social interaction.

A patient must have symptoms from both categories before being diagnosed with the condition.

Treatment

There is no cure or specific treatment for autism. Instead, there are supportive therapies that can help autistic people alleviate specific symptoms and help them live an almost normal life. Such therapies include:

  • Behavioural therapy.
  • Occupational therapy.
  • Play therapy.
  • Speech therapy.
  • Physical therapy.
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