Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Autism

Submitted on March 27, 2012

The term autism can be used to describe a group of complex brain disorders that mainly affect children. Autism usually affects children before they reach the age of 3, and interferes with their development. These disorders are also commonly referred to, as Persuasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Several health experts use the term Autism Spectrum Disorders when referring to Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Rhett Syndrome. Though the symptoms of each of these disorders may vary to some extent, they all have a huge impact on the child's ability to interact and communicate with the others. Since this is a chronic condition, it prolongs even to adulthood.

In the recent years, there has been a significant rise in the number of children who have been diagnosed with autism. Data shows that one in every 110 children is suffering from an autistic disorder. This means that autism is even more widespread than juvenile diabetes, pediatric AIDS and childhood cancer, all combined. Moreover, boys are more likely to develop autism, as compared to girls. In the US, one in around 70 boys is known to suffer from autism. Overall, this condition is prevalent in around 1.5 million people in the US and tens of millions of people, living around the world. Studies also indicate that this condition is on the rise and is going up by 10% to 17% each year. However, it is not really clear if the real increase in reported cases is actually so high, or there is a rise in the number of reported cases because of an improvement in detection techniques.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for autism, which is why a diagnosis of this condition in a child can be devastating for any parent. However, it is possible to control the symptoms to a great extent and improve communication and interaction, by administering autism treatment at the right time.

Tests Recommended

There are no specific autism tests that are carried out to diagnose the condition in kids. However, parents who notice development delays in their children are advised to consult a specialist without any delay. The specialist, along with a team of professionals, performs a formal evaluation for the condition, through observations and a few sessions, to gauge the child's language skills, behavior skills and development. The child will also need to undergo tests that include blood work, along with a detailed physical exam. Therefore, health experts carry out behavioral assessments, physical assessments and laboratory tests to determine if the child is suffering from autism or not, as well as the severity of the condition. After going through autism test for kids, it is important to begin treatment without any delay, in case it is determined that a child is suffering from this condition.


There is no commonality and specificity on the exact cause of autism, though continuous studies are carried out on the subject. Different children can suffer from autism because of reasons that are completely different. However, it is believed that there is no single factor that leads to the development of this disorder. Given below are some of the most commonly known autism causes:

Genetic problems

It appears that there are several genes involved with the development of autism. Some of these genes cause a child to become more susceptible to the condition while others have a negative impact on the way the brain cells communicate or the development of the brain. It is the genes that also determine how severe the symptoms are. Each different gene can account for a small number of autism cases. However, taken together, the effect of genetics on this condition could be substantial. Some of the genetic problems are inherited whereas others occur spontaneously.

Environmental factors

It is believed that babies who face excess exposure to toxic substances like chemicals, cigarette smoke and allergens are likely to suffer from autism. Several researchers are trying to explore if air pollutants and viral infections could also trigger off the autism in a child.

Other disorders

There are a few cases of autism that are linked to genetic disorders like Fragile X, Angelman's Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis. Exposure to infectious environmental agents like maternal rubella or even chemical ones like thalidomide in the prenatal environment can lead to autism in some instances.

There is a lot of controversy about the link between autism and childhood vaccines, especially the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination. However, there is no reliable study to prove that this vaccination can lead to autism in children. Moreover, health experts claim that avoiding childhood vaccinations can increase the risks of serious illnesses like measles, mumps and a whooping cough.


A child suffering from autism is likely to have problems in three important areas of development, which include behavior, language and social interaction. However, it is important to realize that autism symptoms are varied and two children who have the same diagnosis may exhibit signs and symptoms that are completely different. One of the main autism symptoms in children is the complete inability to interact or communicate with other people.

Many parents notice the symptoms of autism in toddlers and infants, but some children seem absolutely normal for the first two years. However, they may seem withdrawn or aggressive, as time goes by. Some toddlers and children also lose the language skills they may seem to have acquired recently. Though autism symptoms vary in each child, some of the common signs noticed in children include:


  • Unusual sensitivity to light, touch and sound, but being oblivious to pain
  • Fascination with certain parts of an object, like the wheels of a toy car
  • Constant movement
  • Getting very disturbed with changes in routines and rituals
  • Performing actions that are repetitive, like flapping hands, spinning or rocking


  • Repeating words or phrases verbatim, without showing any understanding
  • Inability to begin a conversation or even keep one going
  • Speaking with a rhythm or tone that is abnormal
  • Avoiding eye contact when making requests
  • Losing the ability to say sentences or even words learned in the past


  • Failure to respond to their name
  • Being unaware of other's feelings
  • Poor eye contact
  • Resistance towards cuddling or being held by someone
  • Showing a preference for being alone

Since every child is different, the severity of these symptoms may also vary from one child to the other. As the child moves towards adolescence, the symptoms may undergo a change. In cases of mild autism, teens show less marked behavioral disturbances. They may also seem to become more engaged with others. As they grow older, such people may be able to lead a near normal life. However, this is not the case with everyone; behavioral problems could worsen in many children as they approach adolescence. Some of the symptoms of autism in teenagers are:

  • Difficulty in concentrating on a certain task
  • Dislike for physical contact of any kind
  • Showing lack of concern for subjects that others may worry about
  • Avoiding contact or interaction with peers
  • Exhibiting a high level on interest in just one or two activities
  • Intense attachment towards a routine

While these are the most common symptoms of autism in teenagers, children and toddlers, there may be many more. Parents are strongly advised to consult a doctor in case they notice these symptoms or any other developmental problems in their child.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition; however, with the right autism treatment the symptoms of the condition can be improved to a great extent. There are several different home-based, school-based and medical treatments and interventions available, which can be very confusing. It is important to bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all autism treatment for toddlers, children or adults. Patients are advised to use a combination of treatments, which could include medication, behavior modification, communication therapy and dietary modifications. Given below are the different forms of autism treatment for children and adults:

  • Behavior and communication therapy: One of the main aims of autism treatment is to address the behavioral, communicative and social difficulties associated with the condition. Several programs and therapies concentrate on reducing behavioral problems, by teaching the children new skills. Some of the therapeutic programs also focus on educating children on how to behave in social situations and ways in which they interact with other people. Children never outgrow autism, but they can be taught how to function properly with this disorder.
  • Educational therapy: Autistic children usually have difficulty learning at a regular school. However, they can benefit considerably to a well-structured educational program. These programs are delivered by a team of specialists and they usually include a variety of activities to improve communication, behavior and social skills.
  • Medication: The core signs and symptoms of autism cannot be improved, but there are many types of medicines that can reduce the severity of these symptoms. For severe behavioral problems, health experts usually prescribe antipsychotic drugs and anxiety can be controlled with the help of antidepressants.

Very often, autistic children suffer from other medical conditions too, like epilepsy or gastrointestinal problems. The treatment for autism should take the child's overall health and medical condition into account, so that the other problems do not worsen. It is absolutely essential to ensure that the treatment for autism is monitored by a doctor at all times.