Autism is a neurological disorder that causes slow development in children. It is a spectrum of disorders; no two children will show it the same way. Since the symptoms differ from one person to another there is a need for understanding autism. Symptoms range from learning disability, lack of social skills, communication and physical problems. One in 88 children has autism. The symptom is diagnosed at the age of two in children when they are not meeting their developmental milestones. They process the information differently as compared to a normal person therefore care is to be given to these children from their parents as well as teachers.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can occur in all economic, ethnic, racial groups.   People with ASD experience difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviours. These are often accompanied by sensory issues, such an oversensitivity or under-sensitivity to sounds, smells or touch. All of these difficulties may lead to behavioural challenges in some individuals. Many people on the autism spectrum are able to live completely independently, while there are others who need support in almost all aspects of their daily life. Certain factors that increase the risk in children are:

Genetic factors:

 Family history, if the first child is autistic then there is an 18% chance for the next child to inherit the disease. Sex of the child also plays a role. Chances of boys developing autism spectrum disorder are higher than girls.

Environmental factors:

 You cannot change genetics, but you can surely change the environmental exposure. This should be prevented when the child is in the womb. Experts can’t say that lowering the exposure to a particular factor can lower the risk of autism.

Around 50 percent of people with autism engage in behaviour that can cause harm to themselves when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed or unwell. They are found to be indulging in activities that harm themselves as well as people around them. Autism is a non- curable lifelong disease but the impact or the intensity of this disorder can be reduced by giving proper training to the parents of the autistic.

Problem behaviour like self-injury, property destruction, and aggressive behaviour is some of the barriers towards effective social development in the children. They exhibit this kind of behaviour to communicate their feelings to other people. Early diagnosis and treatment can help in improving the behaviour, skills and language development.

Dr Senthil Nathan, Consultant, Neurology, Fortis Malar Hospital