What is Autism? Part Two

In Part One we looked at  What Autism is.  Today we will look at the causes, the diagnosis, and the management of Autism. We will also look at how Autism is trending. I was surprised to learn what I did.

Remember – Autism is a Development Disorder and the symptoms are important to know. Symptoms will help us more than we can realize.

Causes of Autism

For years it has been believed that there is a common cause at the genetic level causing cognitive changes, symptoms and others.

As time moves forward, the pool becomes even murkier.  It is becoming apparent that a very complex set of aspects occur that is multi-focal.

There must be a genetic component but it is unclear if a mutation is to blame or heritable factors, or even gene expression.

Environmental causes are also being and have been explored.

Such causes may be:

1.)    Infectious disease
2.)    Metals
3.)    Diesels
4.)    Phenols
5.)    Drugs
6.)    Vaccines
7.)    Prenatal stress
8.)    and much more.

****No specific link has been found for Autism and vaccines though this is largely disputed depending on which side of the argument you are on.

Screening for Autism

When a parent becomes concerned about a possible Autism diagnosis – a screening tool can be used. It doesn’t always work and in some cases, can cause additional concern. But for the most part, it is a good rule to know.

50% of parents notice a change in behavior by age 18 months

80% of parents notice a change in behavior by age 24 months.

Screening pattern that should indicate concern – this does not mean Autism is the cause.  But this should generate a concern.

1.)     No babbling by around 12 months
2.)     No pointing or waving bye- bye around 12 months
3.)     No single word by around 16 months
4.)     No two word sentences or phrases by around 24 months
5.)     Any loss of previously seen language or social skills at any age.


Autism is a very difficult and concerning diagnosis.

In many cases, concern about a false diagnosis leads to a diagnosis that comes later than it could.   Diagnosis is done on a perceptual behavior concern.  There is not a blood test or X-ray that shows Autism.

A multitude of symptoms must be considered.

Initially, the data of the above screening along with physical examination will help point the provider in the right direction. It is possible that an Autistic specialist will also be called in to see the child and to talk with the parents.

Management of Autism

Management is really the key for everything when it comes to Autism.  The rest are things that will happen sooner or later.

But management is something that can really help the child. A cure should not be the goal in mind when thinking of an Autistic child.  Management though, helps the child in many different areas.

No single treatment or management will work in all cases. The management process should be based on the child’s need.

Behavior therapy early can help the children as they grow learn self-care, job skills, social behaviors and much more.

A one-on-one teaching is helpful for the child who may have difficulty learning in a large setting.  Speech and language therapy can help many children in improving their communication skills and helping them to adapt to their condition.

Occupational Therapy helps them to learn to use their body and how they can perform daily living, cooking, cleaning, and other tasks.


Remember that Autism severity is a spectrum.  Some children will have such serious problems, speaking and normal activities are out of the question. Others have such a minor symptoms that you may not ever know that it was Autism but you may think rather a learning disability or less.  Many are somewhere in between.

Children do recover on their own and are no longer considered Autistic. But that is extremely rare and is not what should be considered a cure.  Improvement is seen after treatment or without.  Little is really known why this happens.

Some children may grow up and are able to live on their own and hold down good jobs. Often the social support, friends, and family are very instrumental.

For an unknown reason, Autism rates are increasing.  Around 1996 it was less than 1 per 1,000 children was found to have Autism.  As of 2007 – that rate increased to over 5 per 1,000 and that number has certainly increased in the last few years.  It may also be as high as 11 per 1,000 now.  Boys seem to have a higher risk than girls.

This could be a lack of adequate data over the decade and a half of diagnosis Autism.  This could easily be explained as stat error.  But others are thinking that a combination of environmental and genetic predominance is the real reason we are seeing an increase.


In the end, we need to be more mindful of the diagnosis and the possibility with the children in our lives. School teachers, parents, friends, and more need to have a better understanding of Autism. Early management is a real key to a more productive life.

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