July 6, 2015

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Autism Spectrum Disorder FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Take the Autism Spectrum Disorder Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!

Q:Autism is a developmental disability. True or false?

A:True.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often referred to as simply autism, is a developmental disability that impacts how people communicate verbally and nonverbally, and how they interact, behave, and learn. People with ASD don't look different, but the way they interact with the world around them is different. The way people with ASD learn, think, and problem solve can vary from being gifted in math, art, music, or visual skills, to being severely challenged both mentally and physically. Many people with ASD can live independently, while some need assistance in daily living.

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Q:Who is more likely to develop autism? Boys or girls?

A:Boys.

Boys are diagnosed with autism four times more often than girls. One in 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD, and this spans all races, regions, and socio-economic statuses.

Approximately 40% of those diagnosed with autism are non-verbal. About 25%-30% of children with autism may speak some words around age 12 to 18 months, but then lose them. Others may gain the ability to speak later in childhood.

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Q:Autism is almost always genetic. True or false?

A:False.

The National Institutes of Health states there is a genetic component that predisposes people to develop autism, but there is also an environmental component. The incidence of autism over the last 20 years has risen so rapidly that genetics cannot be the sole cause.

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Q:Asperger syndrome is also on the spectrum of autism disorders. True or false?

A:True.

A condition also on the spectrum of autism disorders is Asperger syndrome (AS), which is characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that is present from infancy or early childhood. Ideally, these disorders will be screened for and diagnosed before the child is 2 yeas old but many are often not detected until later in life.

Other types of ASDs include autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).

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Q:There are no treatments for autism. True or false?

A:False.

While there are no treatments to cure autism or medications to treat core symptoms, there are some medications that can help some people with ASD function better in daily life.

Medications may be used to manage high energy levels, to help a child focus, to treat depression, or to manage seizures. However, not all medications affect children in the same way so it is important to work with a doctor who has experience in treating children with ASD to determine the right medication and to monitor your child's progress and manage any adverse side effects.

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Q:Autism includes a broad spectrum of symptoms and disorders. True or false?

A:True.

The term "autism" is generally used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). These disorders include Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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Q:Mothers were originally blamed for their child's autism. True or false?

A:True.

In the past mothers were blamed for their child's autism. Women were called "refrigerator mothers" and accused of being to emotionally frigid with their children, causing the autism. This caused many mothers to feel guilty and doubt their parenting skills. Fortunately, this theory of parenting causing autism has been widely discredited.

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Q:Symptoms of autism are usually the same in every child. True or false?

A:False.

Symptoms of autism vary from child to child. Some symptoms may appear in one child but not in another. Some symptoms children with autism may exhibit include:
- Difficulty making friends. Many children with ASD avoid eye contact or want to be alone.
- Repetition of words or phrases (echolalia).
- Difficulty adapting to changes in the daily routine.
- Repetition of actions over and over again, and a strong desire to adhere to strict routines so they know what to expect.
- Flapping their hand, rocking their bodies, or spinning in circles.
- Unusual reactions to sensory perceptions (the way things sound, look, feel, taste, or smell).

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