Autism Symptoms and Causes Expert Insights

Everything You Need To Know About Autism Symptoms and Causes


Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the behavior, communication, and social interaction of a person. It is a spectrum disorder, which can vary in severity and symptoms from person to person. Some common characteristics of autism include difficulty with social interaction, delayed language development or speech problems, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty with sensory processing. Autism is typically diagnosed in the first years of life and is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. While there is currently no definite cure for autism, studies show that early intervention and therapy can help individuals with autism improve their communication, social skills, and behavior.

Stages and Types of Autism

ASD may range from a minor problem in childhood to a serious disability requiring full-time care in a special facility.

People with autism can face trouble communicating and understanding what other people around them think and feel. This causes trouble expressing themselves using words, touch, gestures, or facial expressions. These individuals face trouble with learning. They develop skills erratically. For instance, autistic patients may face trouble communicating but be exceptionally good at music, art, math, or even memory. Hence, they may perform well on tests based on an assessment or problem-solving skills.

Here are some general stages and types of autism that clinicians and researchers recognize.

Stages of Autism:

  • Early Signs: Typically, symptoms of autism can be noticed as early as six months of age, but it may be diagnosed later. Infants may lack eye contact, not respond to their name, have delayed speech, or not babble.
  • Toddler Stage: Autism symptoms may become more noticeable during the toddler years (1-3 years), where there may be difficulties with communication and social interaction, such as not responding to social cues or showing a lack of interest in socializing with others.
  • School Age: As a child enters school age (4-10 years), autism symptoms may become more apparent in their academic performance, social interactions, and behavior.

Types of Autism:

  • Autistic Disorder: The disorder is also referred to as "classic" autism. Individuals with this disorder usually experience language delays, social interaction and communication challenges, and unusual interests and behaviors. Most individuals with autistic disorder also have an intellectual disability.
  • Asperger Syndrome: Mild symptoms of this autistic disorder can characterize the condition. These individuals may also suffer social challenges, strange behaviors, and interests. Asperger Syndrome does not cause intellectual disability or issues with language.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Also referred to as "atypical autism," or PDD-NOS, this may cause fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder. The symptoms may cause social and communication challenges.

Symptoms of Autism

Common symptoms of autism include the following:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • A very small range of interests
  • Intense interest in particular topics
  • Repetition of something and doing something over and over, such as repeating words or phrases over and over, spinning a lever, rocking back and forth, etc.
  • Increased sensitivity to smells, sounds, touches, or even sights that appear normal to other people
  • Avoiding eye contact with other people
  • Communicating with a sing-song, flat voice
  • Not listening to others
  • Challenges adapting to changes in a normal routine
  • Avoiding eye contact with things when someone points at them
  • Resistance to being held or cuddled
  • Trouble expressing oneself or understanding tone of voice, gestures, or facial expressions
  • Trouble understanding or using speech
  • Talking in a robotic voice
  • Seizures (rare)

Causes And Risk Factors of Autism

The causes of autism are still not entirely understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to its development. Here are some of the known risk factors and possible causes of autism:

  • Genetics: Studies suggest that genetics play a significant role in the development of autism. Research has identified several genes that may be involved in autism, and it is believed that multiple genes may contribute to the disorder.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins or infections during pregnancy, have been suggested as possible risk factors for autism. Maternal health and nutrition during pregnancy may also play a role.
  • Brain development: Abnormalities in brain development may also contribute to the development of autism. Studies have shown various differences in brain structure and function in individuals with autism, particularly in areas of the brain involving communication and social behavior.
  • Age of parents: Some evidence suggests that children born to older parents may have a higher risk of developing autism.
  • Other medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, have been associated with an increased risk of autism.

It is important to note that while these factors have been associated with an increased risk of autism, not all individuals with autism have these risk factors, and not all individuals with these risk factors will develop autism. The exact causes of autism are still being researched, and more studies are needed to understand the disorder fully.

Complications Associated with Autism

Initially, parents may be overwhelmed by knowing about their child's condition. Living with an individual with ASD may affect the entire family. One needs to be prepared for the child's complex needs (emotional, financial, and sometimes even physical). Special care needs to be given. They need the same basic health care as normal individuals. It is suggested to find caring and experienced healthcare providers.

One should be prepared to handle behavior-related changes or issues among children/adults that they may show due to a medical problem they cannot define. Proper medical care, guidance, and prescribed therapies/medications can make a living with autistics easier.

Complications can also occur with autism, such as issues with social interactions, communication, and behavior. This may lead to issues in school learning, employment problems, social seclusion, victimization in school/public places and being bullied, family stress, and inability to live independently.

Prevention of Autism

At this time, there is no known way to prevent autism. The exact causes of autism till this day are not fully understood, although research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role. However, there are steps that expectant parents can take to promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of certain complications that have been associated with autism. These steps may include:

  • Getting prenatal care: Early and regular prenatal care is essential for promoting a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of complications linked to autism, such as low birth weight and premature birth.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy can help support fetal development and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Avoiding harmful substances: Exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as lead and mercury, during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism. Expectant mothers should also avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
  • Managing existing medical conditions: Women with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or epilepsy, may be at higher risk for pregnancy complications linked to autism. Working with a healthcare provider to manage these conditions during pregnancy is essential.

While there is no known way to completely prevent autism, promoting a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of certain complications may benefit both mother and baby. Early diagnosis and intervention can also help improve outcomes for individuals with autism, so it is crucial to seek an evaluation if there are concerns about a child's development or behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

Parents and relatives must observe some signs of developmental delays or behavioral problems in their infant or toddler. Discussing these concerns with a pediatrician will help with proper evaluation and early treatment.

No. There are several reasons, including coexisting and learning, coexisting intellectual disabilities, delays in speech and communication, issues with social reciprocity, aggression toward self and others, and the need for individual supervision.

Most parents have reported improvement in their child's symptoms after removing casein (milk protein) and gluten (wheat protein) from their diets. However, it is crucial to plan a diet under the guidance of a skilled dietician.

Yes, the condition is something individuals are born with. Symptoms of autism can be noticed during toddlerhood. A person on the autistic spectrum remains autistic for their whole life.

The condition is always believed to have a maternal inheritance factor. Research and studies have revealed that fewer variants related to autism are commonly inherited from the father.

A new study revealed that around 30% of young children with autism show less severe symptoms of autism at age six than they did at age three. In some cases, children are also known to lose their autism diagnoses entirely.

Individuals with autism are known to have exceptionally good memory. They are known to be very precise and detail-orientated. Other virtues include exceptional honesty and reliability.

Yes. According to a new study, it has been revealed that a routine prenatal ultrasound can detect early signs of autism. The disorder can be revealed in a routine prenatal ultrasound during the second trimester and can detect early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

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