Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that involves a spectrum of cognitive, social and behavioral impairments. As the characteristics of this condition lies along a spectrum, individuals with ASD tend to be very different in terms of their behavioral patterns and development. Some may be more sensitive to sound or other sensory stimulus. However, there are some common characteristics among them and they may include the following: delayed language development, difficulties in communication and social skills, odd patterns of play, repetitive behavior, etc. These symptoms often appear between 12 and 18 months.
Latest research has shown that there are genetic risk factors for autism. In some cases, genes from parents to child can increase the risk of a child developing autism. The parents may not have ASD themselves, but carry the genes that increase the risk of ASD surfacing against certain environmental background. Another instance may be genetic mutations during fetal development that alters the way a gene is expressed, increasing an individual’s risk for autism. Although these may increase a child’s risk of developing ASD, it is unlikely that these genetic factors directly cause ASD. Research has also shown that it is highly unlikely that a single gene is responsible for the development of autism. It is more likely the case where a few genes act together leading to the appearance of the disorder.
For children with ASD, their brains develop differently from their peers. Their brains grow more rapidly, and are bigger and heavier than children without the condition. During child development, connections in the brain are formed. Connections that are not essential for functioning usually disappear in order for important connections to be reinforced. However, this does not seem to be the case for individuals with autism, and therefore explains why their brains are bigger and denser. Using fMRI, areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala which are sometimes known as “the social brain” (Murray, 2012), are shown to be less active in individuals with autism. This may be a possible reason for the differences in social abilities for individuals with ASD.
Environmental factors can also increase the risk of ASD for those who are already genetically predisposed to the condition. Some factors include parents’ age, complications during pregnancy or birth, as well as pregnancies less than a year apart. Similarly, environmental risks cannot directly lead to the disorder, but increases an individual’s risk for developing the condition.
Early intervention can benefit children with ASD in terms of managing behavioral symptoms, early brain development and improving communication skills. At Nurture Pods, we provide early intervention for children from age 3 to 12 years old. There are home-based ABA therapy, center-based intervention as well as school shadowing. They are based on the use of positive reinforcement to encourage desirable behaviors of children. These methods cater to the specific needs of every child in order to facilitate their development and achieve success in the mainstream society. Click on the following link for more information on the services at Nurture Pods: https://www.nurturepods.com
Birtwell, K.B., Willoughby, B., Nowinski, L. (2016, February). Social, Cognitive, and Behavioral Development of Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.babybonus.msf.gov.sg/parentingresources/web/Special-Needs/Development/Child_Development/Specialneeds_ASD_Causes?_afrLoop=2289236971862057&_afrWindowMode=0&_afrWindowId=null#@?_afrWindowId=null&_afrLoop=2289236971862057&_afrWindowMode=0&_adf.ctrl-state=10t3lmv0gj_13.
Murray, S. (2012, 27 February). The Body, The Brain, And The Person. Autism.
Rachel Nall, M. S. N. Autism: Characteristics, diagnosis, and understanding. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323758.php.
What Causes Autism?. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism.