Diseases with physical symptoms are relatively easy to identify and treat.
However, the same cannot be said for mental disorders.
One such disorder that has often eluded understanding is the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
What is ASD?
The American Psychiatric Association has created a guide called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and updates it timely with newer developments in the field.
The latest manual termed the DSM-5 describes ASD as a cause for difficulty in communicating among people, limiting interests, and hindering functioning at school or work.
The disorder is related to brain development and therefore begins in early childhood.
The fact that the symptoms are not definitive is mostly because ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that its symptoms may vary in severity and type.
Previously, ASD was believed to be different from Asperger’s Syndrome – a term still used to describe a rather mild form of autism.
Symptoms of ASD
Autism develops in the early stages of development for children between 1-2 years of age. Some children might even show symptoms in their first few months.
However, diagnosing ASD is difficult because of the unique behavior and level of severity in each patient. Also, the absolute contrast in behavior of two ASD patients is also confusing.
While one child may display difficulty learning, the other may learn quickly. Yet looking for some general cues and typical symptoms is essential.
The most common symptoms include communication difficulty and may couple with different behaviors.
The following symptoms have often been seen:
- Avoiding contact and preferring isolation.
- Difficulty following rhythm and patterns in speaking or moving.
- Difficulty expressing emotions or feelings.
- Engages in self-harming activities.
- Difficulty speaking
- Fixates on a specific object or even specific movement.
- Repeats a certain word or phrase.
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact or displaying expressions
- Higher or lower sensitivity to sensory inputs such as light or temperature.
- Difficulty sleeping.
While an autistic child will not display all these tendencies, the presence of even some of them can be a hint of diagnosis.
Causes of ASD
Just like difficulty in diagnosing it, researchers are not very sure what exactly causes ASD.
Some research in the past has suggested that genes play an essential role in developing the disorder.
However, the surrounding environment also influences the development of the disorder.
Research in environmental factors such as medications, pollution, infections, and pregnancy complications is still being undertaken. The exact causes for the disorders remain unfound as yet.
Treatment for ASD
Treatment for ASD can only follow after a confirmed diagnosis.
However, there is not yet a confirmed cure for the disease. Early therapy has shown remarkable results. The treatment may be behavioral, educational, or psychological in nature.
At the same time, some medication may be prescribed to control for disruptive behavior such as aggression, hyperactivity and anxiety.
One treatment however, that has emerged with great potential is Stem Cell Therapy for Autism.
The Potential in Stem Cell Therapy
A known treatment for Cerebral Palsy, experts are of the thought that Stem Cell Therapy can be extended to treating autism.
This is because autism is a neural disorder, and in stem cell therapy, some stem cells when given intravenously, improve the immune system of the body and help in neural connectivity.
While the disorder is challenging to diagnose and cure, Stem Cell Therapy seems like a step in the right direction.
To know more about the pros of this therapy, please contact the Stem Cells Transplant Institute.