According to the CDC, about 1 out of 68 children has been diagnosed with with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is far more common than people realize, so if you observe any telltale signs in your child, getting a proper assessment is the first step. A psychologist may be able to spot possible underlying causes for your child's behavior that you may not have considered--causes that include the possibility that your child may have some form of autism.
What is Autism?
ASD is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that cause significant behavioral, communication and social impairments. ASD encompasses several conditions which includes autism or autistic disorder), Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) and childhood disintegrative disorder. ASD is more common among boys than girls.
Signs and Symptoms
ASD is difficult to diagnose because symptoms and severity widely vary, and milder symptoms often go unrecognized and/or are misdiagnosed as other health conditions. Doctors can typically can make a diagnosis by observing and monitoring a child's behavior and development for any abnormalities. In some cases ASD can be detected in a child as young as 18 months old, but many children are not diagnosed until they are much older.
Listed below are symptoms of early onset of ASD:
· Little or no eye contact
· Lack of social skills
· Inability to say single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
· No response to his or her name
· No pointing or babbling or pointing by age 1
· No smiling or lacks social responsiveness
· Unable to communicate
· Excessively lining up or arranging toys or objects
Symptoms of later onset of ASD:
· Unable to make friends with peers
· Unusual and repetitive speech patterns
· Unable to start or maintain a conversation with others
· Restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in focus or intensity
· Preoccupation with certain subjects or objects
· Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
· Inflexible adherence to specific schedules, rituals or routines
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of ASD is not yet known, however, research has shown that there are factors that may increase a child's risk for ASD. Persons with certain chromosomal or genetic conditions were found to be more likely to develop ASD, as were children with siblings who have ASD. Certain medications taken during pregnancy have also been linked to higher incidence of ASD, including:Misoprostol, a commonly prescribed treatment of gastric ulcers and less frequently used to induce medical abortions; Valproic acid, a commonly prescribed anti-epileptic drug (AED); and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) a class of drugs commonly used as antidepressants. Researchers are also studying the link between higher rates of autism to children born of older parents. This parental age/ASD relationship may provide important clues to the factors that lead to autism. For instance, increased age may account for increased cumulative exposure to toxic chemicals. Older moms have greater risks of pregnancy complications, and as a woman’s eggs age, they are more likely to carry genetic changes that can affect fetal development.
ASD has no cure, but it can treated. Treatment typically involves behavioral and educational therapy to help autistic children develop their language and social skills, as well as counseling for families of autistic children. Medication may also be prescribed to treat certain autism-related symptoms such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
If you are looking for a good child psychologist in Edmonton to help you determine whether or not your child has ASD, a qualified and licensed professional is just a phone call or email away. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner your child can get the treatment he or she needs.