Autism: Causes & Signs

Autism: Causes & Signs


1 April 2020


What is autism? Autism refers to the condition involving impaired communication, behaviour and language in a child. A child with autism usually shows only a certain level of interest, and the characterisation of this condition is unique for each individual. Autism is often called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) involves a wide range of disabilities that can include minor to major skills impairment that may need special care. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ASD happens to 1 to every 160 children worldwide. Statistics also show that ASD is more common in boys. ASD can be detected in children as early as the age of 2, though some children show obvious signs at the age of 4 or 5. This condition may be persistent until adulthood. Individuals with ASD commonly have several other conditions such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Individuals with ASD may have problems with communication and find it hard to understand what others are saying to them. Therefore they often have problems expressing how they feel. 

These days, the number of children reported with ASD is increasing. This could be due to the increased awareness among parents and the advancement of the methods in diagnosing autism. 

As mentioned, autism has a wide spectrum of disorders, which includes several other syndromes which are: 

  1. Asperger’s syndrome: Children with this syndrome may look normal but they have a problem with social skill and repetitive patterns of behavior and interest

  2. Autistic disorder: Commonly seen in children aged below 3 years old, and having problems with social interactions and communication

  3. Childhood disintegrative disorder: Characterized by late onset of development delays or severe and sudden reversals - in language, social function, and motor skills 

  4. Pervasive development disorder (PDD or atypical autism): When a child may seem to have an autistic disorder, however, their symptoms are quite different that it doesn't fit any category above. Symptoms that are present may revolve around socialization and communication

Causes & signs

Autism develops not due to one factor alone. In fact, it happens due to many combinations of factors including genetic and environment. Autism can happen to people of any race and ethnicity regardless of social or educational status. However, there are few conditions which will increase the chance for autism including:

  1. Age of the parents: The older the age of parents during conceiving of the baby will increase the chance for the child to have autism

  2. Maternal exposure: During pregnancy, mothers who are exposed to chemical exposure, drugs, or alcohol

  3. Pregnancy and birth complications: Multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets) and premature birth    

It is also important to note that there is no evidence that vaccination will increase the chance to develop autism in children. 


Signs & symptoms

Autism may be detected in children as early as 2 years old. However, before indicating that a child is ASD, parents should carefully observe their child’s development and behaviour for any of these signs & symptoms: 

  • Doing things repetitively

  • Having intense interest in one activity or topic

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Hating cuddlings and hugs

  • Not paying attention to other people when they try to interact

  • Having speech problems

  • High sensitivity to sound, smell and sight

  • Trouble understanding communication 

Alternative Treatment 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism. However early management is important to help better social skill development and promote well-being of the child with autism. Intervention is needed to help ASD children cope with their social, behavioural and communication skills in order to survive and better live with family members and communities.  

Although there is no cure for this condition, there are few other alternatives that parents can try to help manage autism better. Below are a few tips:

  • Melatonin therapy

Sleep issues are not an uncommon problem among autism children. These kids may have difficulty sleeping, and restlessness as well as low sleep quality. Not enough sleep will worsen autism symptoms. Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. However, children with autism may have a low level of this important hormone. Therefore, supplementation of melatonin will help the child sleep better and improve their mood during the day.

  • Probiotics

Probiotics are good bacterias found in the human intestine. Probiotics help with digestion and to maintain a healthy gut. A healthy gut will promote a better immune system and support overall well-being. Though there is not a lot of evidence that says probiotics will directly helps with autism, there is no harm in trying right? After all it is important that your child’s health (especially the gut which is where a lot of ailments begin) is optimal.

  • Relaxation therapy

Behavioural issues, restlessness and anxiety are common autism symptoms. Giving them relaxation therapy will help to calm them and relieve their stress. Relaxation therapy can be done massages, deep breathing, light yoga or giving them baths - or anything else that allows them to truly relax.

  • Diet

Avoiding gluten and casein might benefit children with autism. Gluten and casein (milk protein) may cause digestive problems and affect behaviours such as aggressiveness, dizziness and sleepiness. Eliminating these in their diet will improve behaviour significantly. 

It’s important to note that children with ASD may have different needs which as a society need to be understood. These people are big blessings to family members and communities and while they may need more care than normal individuals, they also love large and teach us lessons on patience, understanding and acceptance. 


  1. WHO. (2019). Autism spectrum disorders. Retrieved on 18th March, 2020.

  2. WebMD. (2019). Autism. Retrieved on 18th March, 2020.

  3. Autism Speaks. What causes autism? Retrieved on 18th March, 2020.