Approximately one percent of the world's population cope with some level of autism. In spite of how common it is, people may be surprised how little we know about it and how it is caused. Although the symptoms and study cases have been well-documented, the cause and prospective treatment for autism haven't been given an overarching consensus.
While the general medical viewpoint is that autism is influenced mostly by genetic factors, there is some debate over the influence of prenatal environmental factors. Most of us have probably heard the controversy surrounding the apparent link between autism and vaccinations. While evidence for these theories is tenuous at best, the effect of medications on the autistic mind is worth consideration, especially if you're looking into ways to alleviate the symptoms in an autistic child.
In the face of all of the apparent controversy and mixed messages, a parent's best bet is always to go along with the advice of an expert medical professional. If parents are still left feeling apprehensive about a given piece of guidance, it can help to get a second opinion from another doctor.
Although the mood-altering effects of certain medications should be approached with caution, it's also important to remember that medication isn't the only way parents can go about treating the symptoms of autism. Other treatments, including therapy with a trained developmental psychologist, often bear the potential for even greater improvements than with meds alone.
Regardless of the choices parents make for them and their child, it can only help to stay up-to-date and informed. Learn to distinguish the truths from the quackery, and make choices from there based on sound evidence and research.
15 The Mother's Habits Are A Factor During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a very nurturing or perilous time for a growing infant-- it all depends on the health of the mother. Low-functioning strains of autism may be caused or at least worsened by behaviours like alcohol consumption during the pregnancy. In addition, there have been some studies that suggest that a child's risk of autism increases once a mother reaches her thirties.
A child's maximum potential may be determined by genetics alone, but it's up to the mother to ensure the fetus is able to reach that potential. Growth and development are far from being over once birth occurs, but the critical stages are done with once an infant is born into the world.
Proper health during pregnancy will minimize the risks of many other disorders as well. Women should cut out medications, recreational drugs and alcohol to maximize their chances for a healthy child.
14 Link Between Antidepressant Use And Autism
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal reported that there is an 87% increased likelihood of autism in a child if the child's mother took SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) antidepressant medication during the pregnancy. There is a ton of scientific data that corroborates an influence of various medications on a developing fetus.
As such, even if a woman is used to using mood regulating meds, it's recommended that she stop during the pregnancy because of this risk. If women are able to plan ahead of the pregnancy, they should give themselves a couple of months to wean themselves off of antidepressants.
This is particularly important if a woman has been on them for a long time. Pregnancy is an emotionally trying enough time as it is, and coming off a mood-altering substance can be unbearable if it's not done under the guidance of a doctor.
13 There Are Multiple Theories On The Cause Of Autism
Because there are so many unknown factors when it comes to the formation of autism, there's bound to be some disagreement and controversy. While the most accepted theory finds autism rooted in genetic causes, other explanations may be worth consideration as well.
One better-known theory, for example, is that autism is caused due to antibodies wrongly fighting brain tissue during the fetal stages. In the 1950s and 60s, autism was even seen as a reaction to "cold parenting," where autistic tendencies were developed a coping mechanism with an emotionally distant mother. Science is always changing, so it makes sense that our definition and understanding of autism has, and will continue to develop as time goes on.
Because autism has only been really explored by modern medicine, many historical cases of autism were overlooked, and often diagnosed as something else entirely. In the 40s-50s doctors were big proponents of nervous conditions, which covered a wide range of mental illnesses.
12 Can Ritalin Help?
Some autistic children have been prescribed medication normally reserved for children with attention deficit disorder. Perhaps surprisingly, medications like Ritalin and Adderall can have a beneficial impact on treating the symptoms typically associated with autism spectrum disorders.
Everything from anxiety to responsiveness can be helped with a stimulant medication. While parents may want to look into talking to a doctor about this if they are looking to help symptoms, it's nonetheless important to remember that improvements are never promised. As with other medications, a treatment that works for one case may have less-than-desired effects for another.
However, the fact that research has cited one form of medication of having beneficial effects for many autistic cases should offer hope for even greater treatments in the future. It should be warned, however, that stimulant medications can be addictive. Parents should confer with their doctor about thoughts and concerns.
Medical professionals may have differing opinions on certain types of medication, but a doctor should be able to offer more specific advice regarding a specific child's case.
11 Nothing Can Cause Autism After Birth
Although there's still lingering controversy regarding the effect of vaccinations on children, it is important to remember that no tangible scientific evidence has offered any indication that autism can be caused after birth.
If there are any environmental factors that affect a child's potential for autism, they are found in the stages of pregnancy. Autism has everything to do with the way a brain develops in its earliest stages. Although young brains are very susceptible to change and influence, parents don't need to worry about a sudden case of Asperger's after birth, provided their child wasn't already born with it.
It is possible that part of the reason people think there are post-natal causes to autism is that the symptoms only usually appear a few years into a child's life. By the time there is a distinction between an autistic child and a neurotypical, there will have been plenty of potential causes to place blame on via pseudoscience.
10 Autism Is A Predominantly Genetics-Based Disorder
Like the majority of mental disorders, the most likely causes for autism are all found in the genetic inheritance from the child's parents. Even if the mother and father are autism-free, certain genetic interactions will carry a higher risk of autism than others.
Although there's very little the parents can do to influence their child's genetics (besides their choice of partner) making sure they're in their healthiest shape for pregnancy will give their genes the best chance to maximize on their potential.
If the couple is somehow concerned regarding the risk or likelihood of an autistic child, they should consult with their doctor. The risk of autism may increase if the mother or the father are on the autistic spectrum, but genetic results are never certain.
If parents have had an autistic child and are wondering where the child got the genes from, they may want to look into their respective family trees for other past cases of autism.
9 The Vaccination Theory Is Bogus
While there are plenty of theories and potential explanations for autism, one that has gained an undue amount of traction is the "vaccination theory." The vaccination theory posits that autism is caused as a reaction to vaccinations. Although most people may have heard some in-depth arguments for this, it is important to know that vaccination anxieties are largely based on fear mongering and pseudoscience.
To date, there are no scientifically backed reasons to subscribe to this theory. Although the risk of autism in children is something parents may want to consider, avoiding important medical precautions like vaccinations can add insult to injury by making a child prone to other illnesses and disorders.
Although the anti-vaccination advocates are an extreme minority in the "expert" community, their voices are loud, and people are often prone to acting with fear and caution when their children are involved. Caution is always advised, but make sure your decisions are being based on more than mere pseudoscience.
8 Being Healthy Can Minimize Risk
While genetics make up a large part of whether or not a child will be born with autism, that doesn't mean parents can't do their part to minimize the risk. Abstaining from processed foods, alcohol, recreational drugs and medications alike will give the fetus its best chance to develop normally.
Keeping stress and exertion to a relative minimum will also help. If a parent is planning on having a child and wants to do everything to minimize the risk of autism, they should try to have a child earlier in life. Younger mothers (before the age of 30) have been proven to have healthier children with lower risks of disorders such as autism.
Women shouldn't worry if they're over 30 however; although there is an increased statistical probability of these issues occurring in children born to mothers over 30, Autism can be offset effectively by a woman keeping herself in the best possible shape.
7 Treating Autism With Medication
If anyone has ever taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, they'll know it sometimes takes a few tries before they find a brand that works with their physiology. The same goes for treating autism. Although autism itself cannot be treated per se, certain medications may help with the resulting symptoms.
In treating an autism spectrum disorder, the most prominent symptoms usually dictate which medications are tried out. If parents who have an autistic child and are looking to help the symptoms, they should be prepared for a period of trial and error. Several trips to the doctor are usually involved in pinpointing the right medication.
Although it can result in a rocky period, the good news is that a good medication can have very long-term positive effects once it is found and committed to. Doctors usually have several different medications for a given issue, so don't lose hope if one doesn't work.
6 Adjusting To Medication Is Hard
It doesn't matter who it is; making the leap into antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication can be tough. In the days and weeks following a new prescription, things can sometimes get worse before they appear to improve. Many women may know this struggle firsthand if they've ever had to adjust to antidepressant medications at some point in their life.
If the symptoms of autism are already severe, this can mean a lot of extra work for the child's parents. While it's sometimes a sign that the medication simply isn't working for the child's physiology, knowing that there will be initial negative side-effects is an important step in managing the process.
Place an emphasis on giving extra care, warmth and attention. Some emotional support can do a lot to counterbalance the less appetizing effects of getting used to a mood-altering medication. A doctor should be able to offer a reasonable timeframe in which to know whether a medication is really working or not.
5 Medications Affect Everyone Differently
Even if one medication is found to be very effective with cases of autism, there's no promise how it will work on a given brain. Every brain is different, and the same is doubly true with autism. Because autism encompasses such a wide range of symptoms, the most prominent symptoms are usually addressed by medication.
A medication that helps one person may do nothing for another, or even make the perceivable symptoms worse. The important thing is to be persistent. Parents shouldn't lose hope if the first couple of tries don't work in their favour.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is to gauge your child's symptoms on a daily basis in order to see how the medication may be affecting him or her. Once parents have formed a basis for the treatment, their doctor will be able to give them more precise details on monitoring the medication's progress.
4 Some Medications Make Autism Symptoms Worse
Regardless whether the doctor is trying to treat symptoms of autism or not, it's important to be prepared for worsening symptoms. Most often, worse symptoms are the result of side-effects caused due to a child getting used to a new drug.
Other times, the medication simply isn't working for the child in question. If parents are worried about the risk of bad symptoms, they should do research on their own time to see what other parents are saying about the drug in question.
Regardless, even if things are bad at first, it's important to give a medication the proper time to adjust, cancelling out only if the symptoms get bad to the point of causing severe concern. While some people advise against treating autism as a disorder you can medicate, most parents want the chance to give their child a more normal life and often they find medications too hard to pass up.
The doctor has likely dealt with many cases like this before, so parents should ask him for his instructions if they're unsure on what to do.
3 Suicide Risk Increases With Certain Medications
Parents should read the writing on the "black box" of some medication packages, they'll be shocked to see the warning for the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. Even though parents shouldn't let these risks dictate whether or not they decide to test out a medication, it is important to consider that a child adjusting to a new form of medication may be prone to these risks more so than usual.
The important thing as a parent is to make sure that any treatment the child undergoes helps out and comforts the child as they undergo this process of integration. If parents choose a medication to test out, they need to monitor changes in their child's behaviour from a day-to-day basis.
Certain signs of depression can be hard to identify without a keen eye, and given the difficulty in communication, looking for symptoms of a worsening mood can be made even tougher. This may present difficulties in many cases of autism.
2 Not All Medication Is Necessary
Although there's no doubt that medication can have a very positive effect on helping out some people through symptoms of autism and other mental disorders, there are some experts who proclaim that medication is wholly unnecessary.
Other alternative treatments should be looked into before committing to a pharmaceutical of route. For instance, being helped by a tutor or childhood development specialist can help an autistic child far more than physiological treatments. Options should be discussed in depth with a doctor or the child's educator.
Unlike medication, which is often prescribed based on a handful of primary symptoms, a therapeutic route may be specially crafted to suit the child's needs. Communication, self-reliance and learning-related concerns can be emphasized to counteract the disorder and prepare the child for future success in life.
No matter what parents decide to do, it's good to remember that other options are always available if the current treatment proves to be unsatisfactory.
1 Alleviate Certain Autism Symptoms With Medication
Although autism covers a wide range of cases and symptoms there are certain symptoms that studies have shown are more regularly helped out by medications than others. For one, the more violent symptoms like self-harm and injury, or general aggression can be helped by administering a regular dose of anti-anxiety medication.
Although it may be difficult to see these changes immediately, over time a reliable medication may serve to completely transform the way an autistic child is able to act and react in his life. When all's said and done however, the best bet is likely to come from a fusion of treatments. A combination of dedicated therapy alongside medications to treat the prominent symptoms can go a long way towards helping the situation.
Most of all, no matter what parents decide to do, give a child the love and admiration they deserve. Emotional warmth and support can only ever make things better.