ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how people interact, communicate, learn, and behave with others and even though it is a disorder that can be diagnosed at any age, it has been termed as neurodevelopmental because it is usually diagnosed at an early age and its symptoms usually appear during the first two years of life.

People with ASD tend to have difficulties with looking people in the eyes while someone is speaking to them, they might in turn make inconsistent eye contact which could seem odd to people who are used to having eye contact while having a conversation with another person. Additionally, in certain cases, individuals with autism may seem as if they were not listening to what the person talking to them is saying. They might also not respond back or usually seem to respond slowly to a person’s name or any other attention demands. At times it might seem that the person with ASD might seem too enthusiastic about speaking regarding a specific topic that is most of their interest and would seem that they don’t let the listener have a chance to reply regarding a comment or to contribute to the conversation that is taking place. Interestingly, it can also happen that while we are having a conversation with an individual with autism, that same person might make facial expressions that seem to be off the topic of conversation.

One interesting term referred to as echolalia is used for individuals who tend to repeat the same words another person says, this is a behavioral pattern common in autism and it has recently been discovered that it might be used as a coping mechanism.

Other difficulties individuals with autism face include making new friends, attempting to understand other people’s points of view, predicting others’ actions, or even adjusting behaviors to different social situations. Finally, individuals with autism might seem pretty deeply interested in specific topics, or environments and at times it could happen that if a certain environment or thing is changed in the slightest, then the individual or child with this condition might seem to break into a tantrum or outburst until the change is settled back to how it was before the modification.

On the other hand, it is crucial to mention how some individuals with autism can have excellent memory where even details can be remembered by them, they can have high visual and auditory learning skills or they can also excel in different fields such as music, arts, science or mathematics.

The primary causes of ASD are unknown, however; it has been speculated by research that genes might be at play along with environmental aspects; regardless, the factors that seem to be associated with risk factors for developing ASD are having a sibling with autism, having older parents, having a genetic condition or acquiring low birth weight. Fortunately, there are different treatment options for this condition ranging from psychotherapy to medication, and in terms of psychotherapy; those might aid in communication improvement, change behavioral patterns which interfere with daily functioning, or learning different skills to be able to live independently later in life.

by Marta Padron Pena, Mental Health Intern 

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