Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that can affect anyone. Neither an illness or disease, it is now more commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorder. A complex disorder, symptoms can be challenging for both the person with autism and their loved ones but, with the correct specialist interventions, speech and communication can be improved. There is no ‘cure’ for autism; the emphasis is on ensuring a fulfilling and happy life for the person with the disability.
Experts believe that people are born with genetic dispositions to autism, with signs presenting themselves often before the age of three. Although any gender or race can be affected, there is a higher number of recorded cases in men.
Early symptoms of autism in children can include:
Signs in adults can include (this list is not exhaustive):
There is no definitive cause of autism; it is believed to be down to genetics and cases of autism spectrum disorder have been known to run in families, meaning a child may be more at risk if one or more of their siblings has been diagnosed.
It has been suggested by researchers that somebody born with a genetic vulnerability to autism may only develop the disability if exposed to certain environmental triggers such as; premature birth, being exposed to certain medications or alcohol in the womb - however, this is not a definite cause.
In the past, people used to refer to different ‘types’ of autism, such as ‘Aspergers’ however; now these old terms are now under one terminology - autism spectrum disorders. These can range from mild, medium and severe on the spectrum and expert diagnosis will determine the type of treatment needed.