Frequently Asked Questions about Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • What is autism?


    Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder or pervasive developmental disorder. It is usually noticed by the age of 3 The main characteristics of autism is an impairment in social functioning, difficulty in emotional situations and in maintaining personal relationships and in communication, including delayed speech and non-verbal communication. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors and a need for structure and routine. Many also develop a narrow interest on a specific topic, often referred to as passions or special interests.


    What is a spectrum disorder?


    Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that there is a large range of severity of symptoms and each person exhibits those symptoms uniquely. One person can be on one end of the spectrum, with only mild symptoms, considered high-functioning, while another can be severely impacted by symptoms and may be considered disabled.

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    What causes autism?


    No one knows what specifically causes autism. Although there has been some discussion over the role of immunizations in causing autism, this has been shown to be untrue and research has not yet been able to pinpoint the cause of autism. Genetics are thought to play some role in autism in conjunction with environmental factors.


    Why is autism diagnosed more often than previously?


    It is not completely understood why the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to increase; however, many people that better understanding of the disorder as well as more doctors and parents being aware of the symptoms of autism contribute to the increasing numbers of diagnosis.


    How do I know if my child should be tested for autism?


    Many parents see some of the early warning signs of autism including lack of eye contact, lack of reciprocal communication (give and take in facial expressions and conversation), repetitive behaviors, such as hand waving, and inflexibility in daily routines. If you see these signs, you may want to talk with your pediatrician about autism and have a specialist complete an evaluation.


    Do children with autism talk?


    While many people with autism have difficulty with communication, each child is different. Some may begin speaking at normal times but suddenly stop talking; others will have speech delays but begin speaking around the age of 4 or 5. Others, with more severe symptoms, may not speak but may use sign language to communicate. There is no guarantee that every child with autism will begin talking, however, the majority of children with autism do learn some form of communication.


    Why do children with autism eat only limited foods?


    Many children with autism have sensory difficulties, experiencing problems with tastes, textures or smells and will limit their intake of foods to one or two different foods, wanting them prepared in the same way each day. If your child is a picky eater and you are concerned about him getting the proper nutrition, talk with your doctor. You may want to look into working with a nutritionist to make sure your child receives the nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Some parents find that having the food your child likes on the table along with foods he does not want to eat provides motivation to try new foods. When your child eats the food he doesn't want, he gets to eat his favorite food.


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    How is autism treated?


    There is no medication to take away or reduce symptoms of autism. Treatment programs are created based on your child's individual symptoms and weaknesses. Some types of therapies and treatments used are:

    • Occupational therapy
    • Physical therapy
    • Speech therapy
    • Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Sensory integration therapy
    • Behavioral therapy

    Because treatment is based on each individual, your child may not need all of these treatments and only certain treatments may be recommended. Early intervention services, available through your county, have been found to be effective in helping children with autism.


    Can autism be cured?


    There is no cure for autism, it is a lifelong disability. Early intervention and treatment do significantly improve symptoms and a person's ability to manage their symptoms. Medical and educational interventions focusing on individual strengths and weaknesses provide self-help strategies to work toward independence.




    "Frequently Asked Questions," 2011, Staff Writer, Autism Speaks


    "Frequently Asked Questions," 2009, Staff Writer, Autism Society of Washington


    "Frequently Asked Questions about Autism," 1998, January, Temple Grandin, Autism Research Institute



Published On: September 25, 2011