Your Health


Autism: What you need to know

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability which adversely affects one’s social and mental ability to respond to challenges in their environment. Globally, 1% of the population suffers from autism which usually becomes apparent in the early stages of growth and development.

When does it start and what signs indicate its presence?

Commonly occurring within the first three years of a child’s life, its roots are considered to be genetic. Whether diagnosed or not, Autism  is a lifelong condition which carries into adulthood.

As Autism is a brain anomaly, many parents find it difficult to understand or cope with it initially. Effects appear in the form of poor development of communication and social skills. The severity of the condition, timely diagnosis and management determine the extent of the effects through the course of life. The damaging effects on the daily functioning of someone suffering from autism can be mitigated through an early diagnosis. This allows for coping mechanisms to be generated and specifically tailored for the type of autism the patient has. Furthermore, a nurturing environment is essential to better the social and mental inadequacies of autistic persons. The disability is not uniform in nature and those suffering from it exhibit a variety of symptoms, each of which ranges in its severity.



It is believed that there is no single causal factor for autism and that the presence of a number of factors could be linked to increasing the chances of autism including:

  • Expectant mother’s exposure to a polluted environment
  • Expectant mother’s consumption during her pregnancy with certain drugs being exceptionally dangerous
  • Father’s age
  • Genetic makeup of the child
  • Family history of both parents.


Since autism does not have a defined manifestation, it is difficult to state symptoms applicable in all cases. But there are a few indicators that should be taken as a cue to consult with a doctor for an assessment if exhibited during the early years or even later in life:

  • Child does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Child does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Child does not say single words by 16 months
  • Child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Variant behavior from the norm as per age
  • Severe difficulty with learning
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

Emphasis is laid on noticing the signs and receiving a proper medical diagnosis. Researchers at Yale have found that early intervention can lead to better brain function, communication skills and the overall socializing.


Challenges faced by Autistic persons include:

  • Being treated insensitively due to the broad opinion that they do not feel as others do
  • Awareness of one’s own disability often causes low morale as one sees how others function and that they cannot do the same; such as being treated differently or the difficulties in finding a life partner
  • Learning difficulties
  • Being socially accepted
  • Shunning and mocking by peers due to difference in appearance and social skills

Steps that can help your loved one deal with Autism and live a normal life.

Understanding your loved one’s condition is the most important step in helping them and facilitating your relationship. You can undertake research on your own, and seek help from medical practitioners, seminars and reading. Most research emphasizes that environmental factors including support at home (family) and at place of learning (trained teachers) can immensely ease the life of someone with autism, and moreover help them shed some of the symptoms associated with the condition.

An important consideration to make is that those with autism are more sensitive and react differently to events and interactions with others. To make an autistic person’s life less stressful, one must avoid changes and sudden physical contact with them, and caregivers should try and structure their life through a routine as they respond better to predictability rather than spontaneity and surprises.

Society’s belief and response: the gaps that need to be filled

There are many myths surrounding life with autism, for example:

  • Autistic persons do not care about others
  • It is caused by poor parenting, or parenting behavior
  • It is a behavioral/emotional/mental health disorder
  • Sufferers of this disorder cannot live successful lives as contributing members of society
  • Autism spectrum disorders do not run in families.


Societies where autism and those suffering from the condition are often overlooked and neglected do not have the capacity to provide public services. In these place,s an even more conscientious effort needs to be made to promote their independence and a high quality of life.

It is proven that with the right kind of medical attention and support from the family, someone with the disability can learn skills and improve on their verbal and non-verbal communication. Early detection and response also relieve lifelong care costs.