Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition. It leads to social, communication and behavioural challenges. Those suffering from it grapple with an inability to emote or speak using language, gestures, facial expressions and touch. Dr Rajesh Kumar a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Max Super Speciality Hospital helps you understand this mental health condition.

What is autism? Types and conditions

Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition whose symptoms show up in kids as young as three years old. A diagnosis of ASD covers a range of conditions including Asperger’s syndrome, Autistic disorder, Childhood disintegrative disorder and Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or atypical autism). They all fall under the range of autism spectrum disorders.

  • Asperger’s syndrome

These children may not have a problem with language or may have a minor language difficulty. They find it hard to socially interact with people.

  • Autistic disorder

Those diagnosed with this condition have communication and social interaction issues.

  • Childhood disintegrative disorder

This is a rare condition. Kids diagnosed with it are likely to face development issues post the age of two. Their condition starts deteriorating negatively affecting their communication and social skills.

  • Pervasive development disorder (PDD or atypical autism)

A child who exhibits some autistic behaviour but does not meet all of the conditions.

Causes and symptoms

Researchers do not have any conclusive evidence to determine the exact cause of this condition. Symptoms include:

  • A lack of eye contact
  • Exhibiting repetitive behaviour
  • Difficulty in communicating with people using language, facial expressions, gestures or touch
  • A high sensitivity to sounds, touch, smell or sights.

Treatment and cure

There is no cure for this condition as yet. An early diagnosis can help manage it better. It requires parents, therapists and the teachers involved working together to help the individual cope better with autism.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is used as a treatment. It promotes positive behaviour and discourages negative behaviour. Occupational therapy can help teach life skills like day-to-day activities and relating to people. Speech therapy can help improve communication skills.

In 99 per cent of the cases, no medication is used to treat autism. However, in some cases, it is used to treat behaviour associated with this condition. Medication may be given to calm a person down if they are restless and repeatedly banging their head or also to treat someone with epilepsy.