What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), hereafter referred to as Autism (which includes Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified [PDD-NOS]), is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. The Autism experience is different for everyone. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is often referred to as a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.
While there is currently no known single cause of Autism, early diagnosis helps a person receive resources that can support the choices and opportunities needed to live fully.
How do I get my child screened for autism?
Does your child show signs of autism? Do you wonder about his or her development?
We encourage you to get your child screened promptly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children get screened for autism at their 18- and 24-month exams – and whenever a parent or doctor has concerns.
Meanwhile, you can complete the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers-Revised (M-CHAT-R™). It takes just a few minutes to assess the likelihood of autism. And you can take the results to your doctor.
Talk with your healthcare provider. Screening doesn’t diagnose autism. It flags behaviors often associated with the condition. After screening, your doctor can refer you to a specialist for a diagnostic evaluation.
Importantly, you don’t need to wait for a diagnosis for your child to receive services. Federal law requires states to provide therapy whenever screening identifies developmental delays or learning challenges.
Causes & Factors
There is no known single cause for Autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by differences in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in people with Autism compared to in neurotypical development. Researchers do not know the exact cause of Autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics, and medical problems. There has been misinformation about the cause of Autism. It is not caused by vaccines or due to parenting style or nutrition.
In many families, there appears to be a pattern of Autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis.
While no one gene has been identified as causing Autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that people with Autism may have inherited. It also appears that some people are born with a susceptibility to Autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes Autism to develop.
Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may affect brain development in an unexpected way, resulting in Autism. Still other researchers are investigating complications during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to chemicals.