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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in the first few years of life. In many cases, it isn’t diagnosed before the age of 3.
ASD can impair your communication and social skills to varying degrees. The effects depend upon where your autism falls on the spectrum of severity. It can range from mild (Asperger syndrome) to severe. People with mild ASD are usually fully functional in their daily lives and society. Those with more severe forms of ASD may require ongoing care and support for their entire lives.
ASD can be challenging to deal with on its own. This is true for both patients and caregivers. ASD is often accompanied by other disorders and problems. These additional disorders and complications can add to the challenges of managing ASD.
If you have ASD, you may experience sensory problems, seizures, mental health disorders, or other complications.
If you have ASD, you may be very sensitive to sensory input. Something as common as loud noises or bright lights may cause you significant emotional discomfort. Alternatively, you may not respond at all to some sensations, such as extreme heat, cold, or pain.
Seizures are common among people with ASD. They often begin in childhood or your teenage years.
Many people with ASD have some level of mental impairment. Children with fragile X syndrome are more likely to develop ASD. This syndrome is caused by a defect on a section of the X chromosome. It’s a common cause of mental impairment, particularly among boys.
Tuberous sclerosis is a rare disorder that causes benign tumors to grow in your organs, including your brain. The link between tuberous sclerosis and ASD is unclear. However, ASD rates are much higher among children with tuberous sclerosis than those without the condition, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other problems that can accompany ASD include aggression, unusual sleep habits, unusual eating habits, and digestive issues.
If you’re taking care of a child or adult with ASD, it’s important to take good care of yourself too. Many caregivers experience stress and lack of sleep. This can lead to mistakes in care. Taking care of your own health with good nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise is just as important for you as it is for the person you’re caring for.
Asking others for help, and accepting it when you need it, is also an important part of caregiving. If you find it difficult to manage the demands of caregiving, talk to your doctor. They may offer strategies or resources to help you cope.
With early and proper treatment, many children with ASD grow up to lead independent and productive lives. Early intervention programs, medications to help manage symptoms and complications, and supportive environments can foster a promising future for people with ASD.
If you suspect that you or your child has ASD, speak to your doctor.
Written by: The Healthline Editorial Team & Julie Roddick
Medically reviewed on: Dec 09, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP
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