April Is Autism Awareness Month

Here's what you need to know about autism spectrum disorder

(RxWiki News) April is Autism Awareness Month. How much do you really know about autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a group of neurological and developmental disorders that begin early in childhood, generally before age 3, and last throughout a person's life.

What Is Autism?

Autism affects the normal development of the brain in the areas of communication skills, social interaction and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have trouble with communication (both verbal and nonverbal), interacting socially, and leisure or play activities.

Autism is called a "spectrum" disorder because people with the disorder can have a range of symptoms. Those with autism might have problems communicating with others, or they may have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.

Causes

The causes of autism are not known. However, research suggests that both genes and environment play important roles. Autism occurs in people of all races and socioeconomic statuses. Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

Researchers have identified a number of genes that may be tied to the disorder, and some studies have suggested a link between irregularities in the development of several regions of the brain and autism.

It is important to note that parental practices do not cause autism.

Treatments

There is no cure for autism. The goal of therapies and behavioral interventions is to improve specific symptoms. The ideal treatment plan will include therapies and interventions that are individualized to meet the specific needs of the person with the disorder.

Approaches to therapy include educational and behavioral interventions, as well as certain medications.

Intensive, skill-oriented training sessions help children develop social and language skills. And family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with autism often helps families overcome potential challenges. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and music therapy can also be part of a complete treatment plan for autism.

Doctors may prescribe medications to treat specific symptoms, such as anxiety, certain behavioral problems, attention-deficit disorder, depression, seizures or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Living with Autism

If your loved one has been diagnosed with autism, a variety of resources, programs and support groups are available. Ask your health care provider about the resources available for you and your family.

Speak with your health care provider if you have any questions about autism.