Autism

Overview

What is autism?

People are naturally social, so are our kids. Most kids from birth and on are very social. They want and need contact with other people to thrive. From babies to toddlers, they tend to have social smiles, laugh, and play games like peek-a-boo. However, some kids have problems with socialization, communication, and repetitive behaviors. These developmental characteristics are called autism. 

What is autism spectrum disorder?

ASD is multiple domains of developmental conditions that cause impairment in social interaction/relatedness, delayed speech, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. 

What are the five different types of autism?

  • Asperger’s Syndrome. These kids tend to struggle with understanding or interpret social cues. They can also have an obsessive interest and/or sensory sensitivity.
  • Rett Syndrome. This affects only girls. It progressively gets worse when they reach six months of age. It is similar to autistic characteristics but can also have growth delays, seizures, and mental intellectual difficulties. 
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. These children typically develop normally until the age of two, then suddenly get worse and develop symptoms of autism. 
  • Kanner’s Syndrome. These children have typical autism symptoms that are moderate to severe.   
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder. These children have a milder form of autism. They can have social delays and delayed motor skills. 

Any comorbidities associated with autism?

Autism can have comorbid conditions such as ADHD, OCD, and behavior problems.

Can you get autism from vaccines?

No, vaccines are not the cause of autism. Despite its controversial belief, no research has shown the link between autism spectrum disorder and vaccines. Medical professionals highly recommend getting your children vaccinated to prevent them from getting serious diseases, such as whooping cough, chickenpox, HIB (what causes meningitis), measles, and influenza.

How can the Specialty Clinic of Austin help kids with autism?

Specialty Clinic of Austin can provide both medications and therapy, which are the two main ways to treat autism. For additional information, please contact our office at 512-382-1933.

Causes

What causes autism?

The causes of autism are not known, but we do know vaccines do not cause it. Instead, some genetic and environmental components may be a cause of autism.

  • Genetics. Several genes seem to be involved in autism. Because of that, there are a few ways genetics can play a role in the potential cause of autism. For example, a mutation in the genes can increase the likelihood of a child developing autism. Additionally, some genetic disorders also seem to be involved in the development of autism, such as Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), tuberous sclerosis, Williams Syndrome, and more.
  • Environmental components. Researchers are still unsure what environmental factors could contribute to the development of autism. Some environmental aspects may include:
    • complications during pregnancy
    • premature birth
    • generally older parents at the time of conception
    • exposure to air pollutants

Symptoms

What symptoms to look out for?

Autism symptoms can range from mild or severe. Some of them can be lower functioning with lower IQ in which they will not be able to function independently. In contrast, others can have higher IQs and do well in school. Although children with autism can grow up and live independently, they struggle socially and with school adjustment.

The symptoms may include:

  • Aloof or distant behavior
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Displaying odd/ritualistic behavior (e.g. flapping their arms, rocking back and forth)
  • A change in routine is difficult
  • Delayed speech
  • Repeating the sounds and words
  • Obsessed with a particular subject or event

 

Diagnosis

What symptoms to look out for?

Autism symptoms can range from mild or severe. Some of them can be lower functioning with lower IQ in which they will not be able to function independently. In contrast, others can have higher IQs and do well in school. Although children with autism can grow up and live independently, they struggle socially and with school adjustment.

The symptoms may include:

  • Aloof or distant behavior
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Displaying odd/ritualistic behavior (e.g. flapping their arms, rocking back and forth)
  • A change in routine is difficult
  • Delayed speech
  • Repeating the sounds and words
  • Obsessed with a particular subject or event.

Treatment

How to treat autism?

Autism cannot be cured, but medication can be used to treat some of the symptoms of autism. SSRIs are used to help treat rigid/OCD behavior. SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor and is a set of drugs that help regulate the level of serotonin (a neurotransmitter/chemical messenger) in the brain. Stimulants can be used to treat ADHD and help children with autism since autism and ADHD have similar symptoms. Mood stabilizers can be used to treat anger or behavior problems, which is another common symptom of autism.

Children with autism can also benefit from speech and occupational therapy. The main treatment is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA can help children with autism by teaching them social and communication skills. The child’s behavior can be shaped using rewards, therefore, increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative behaviors.

Both medications and occupational therapy are offered at the Specialty Clinic of Austin.

Sources:

  1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). (n.d.). Autism Speaks. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis-aba-autism-treatment
  2. Autism. (n.d.). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autism/index.cfm
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, January 6). Autism spectrum disorder – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928


Information

Medically reviewed by:

Charles Sweet, MD, MPH

Dr. Sweet is a native Texan and attended The University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate studies. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Illinois and then did residency training at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Sweet came back to Austin, TX for specialized training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has been in practice since 2009.Dr. Sweet believes strongly in working with, and training Physician Assistants to treat the behavioral health needs of adults, children and adolescents.

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