ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder): Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis

The word “autism” was  gotten from the Greek word “autos” meaning “self”. A Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler was the first person to use the term. Autism Spectrum Disorder  (ASD) and autism are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development,it is called a spectrum because of the degree of impairment(communication skills,social interactions,repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior)and wide range of symptoms it has on children,some are mildly affected while others are several disabled.

Autism Spectrum Disorders can often be reliably detected  at the age of 3 years in some cases as early as months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

The autism spectrum disorders are more common in the pediatric population. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed,the sooner the child can be helped through treatment interventions, Pediatrician,family physicians,daycare providers and parents may initially  dismiss signs of ASD,below are  possible indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders;

-Does not babble ,point or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age.

-Does not speak one word by months

-Does not combine two words by 2 year

-Does not respond to name


Infants are social beings,early in life they gaze at people,turn towards voices,grasp a finger and even smile.

In-contrast, most children with ASD seem to have tremendous difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of every day human interaction. Even in the first few month of life many do not interact and they avoid eye contact ,while some are slower in learning  to interpret what others are thinking and feeling.

People with ASD have difficulty seeing things from another persons perspective. Most 5 year old understand that older people have different information, feelings and goals. A person  with ASD may lack such understandings this inability leaves them Unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.

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The individual with ASD might also be disruptive and physically aggressive  at times make social relationship skill  difficult. They have a tendency to “lose control”,particularly when they are in a strange or overwhelming environment,in their frustration, some bang their heads pull their hair or bite their arms.

Problems Associated With Autism Spectrum Disorder

 Sensory Problems

When children’s perceptions are accurate,they can learn from what they see,feel or hear on the other hand if sensory information is faulty the child’s experiences of the world can be confusing.

In ASD the brain seems unable to balance the senses appropriately. An ASD child may fall and break and arm,yet never cry,another may bash his head against a wall and not wince?but a light touch may make the child scream with alarm

Mental Retardation

Many children with ASD have some degree of mental impairment.When tested some areas of ability may be normal while others may be weak


One in four children with ASD develops seizures,often starting either in early childhood or adolescence. Seizures can be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain,which can produce a temporary loss of consciousness (a”blackout).

In most cases seizures can be controlled by a number of medicines called “anti-convulsants”.

Communication Difficulties

By age 3,most children  have passed predictable milestones on the part to learning language, one of the earliest is babbling. By the first birthday, a typical toddler says words,turns when he hears his name,points when he wants a toy and when offered something distasteful,makes it clear that the answer is no.

Some children diagnosed with ASD remain mute through out their lives,some infants who later show signs of ASD and babble during the first few months of life but they soon stop. While others may be delayed developing  language as late as age 5 to 9.

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Also children with ASD learn to use communication systems such as pictures or sign languages

Some ADD children sometimes parrot what they hear,a condition called echolalia,although many children with no ASD go through a stage where they repeat what they hear,it normally passes by the time they are 3.

Without meaningful gestures or language to ask for something people with ASD are at a a loss to let others know what they need. As a result they May simply scream or grab what they want until they are taught better ways to express their needs.


Although there are many concerns about  labeling a young child with an ASD, the earlier the diagnosis  of ASD is made, the earlier needed interventions can begin.

In evaluating a child,clinicians rely on behavioral characteristics to make a diagnosis. The diagnosis requires a two-stage process. The first stage involves developmental screening during  ‘well child’ check-ups;the second stage entails a comprehensive evaluation by multidisciplinary team.


A” well child” check up should include a developmental screening test. If your child’s pediatrician does not routinely  check your child with such test,ask that it be done. Your own observations and concerns about your child’s  development  will be essential in helping to screen your child.

Several screening instruments have been developed to quickly gather information about a child’s social and communicative development within medical settings. Among them are the checklist of Autism in Toddlers (CHAT),the modified checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT),and the social communication questionnaire (SCQ).

If following the screening process or during a routine “well child”check-up,your child’s doctor sees any of the possible indicators of ASD, further evaluation is indicated

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Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation

The second stage of diagnosis must be comprehensive in order to accurately  rule in or out an ASD or other developmental problem. This evaluation  may be done by a multidisciplinary team that includes a psychologist,a neurologist,a psychiatrist,a speech therapist, or other professional who diagnose children with ASD.

Because ASDs are complex disorders and may involve other neurological or genetic problems,a comprehensive evaluation should entail neurological and genetic assessment,along with  in-depth cognitive  and language testing. In addition, measures development specifically for diagnosing autism are often used. These include the autism Diagnosis Interview-Revised (ADI-R)and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule  (ADOS-G). The ADI-R is a structure  interview  that contains over 100 items and is conducted with a caregiver.  It consists of four main factor-the child’s communication,social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and age-of-onset symptoms.  The ADOS-G is an observational measure used to press for socio-communicative behaviors that are often delayed, abnormal, or absent in children with ASD.

Although parents  may have been aware that something  was not quite right  their child,when the diagnosis is given ,it is a devastating blow. At such time, it is hard to stay focused on asking questions.  But while members of the evaluation team are together is the best opportunity the parents will have to ask questions and get recommendations on what further  steps they should take for their child. Learning as much as possible at this meeting is very important,but it is helpful to leave this meeting with the name or names of professionals who can be contacted if the parents have further questions.

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