Autism Spectrum Disorder Awareness Month
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) awareness month is a campaign that happens in April every year to raise public awareness of autism.1
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in 36 children in the United States was diagnosed with ASD in 2020.1
Early intervention is the best way to support healthy development so that people with ASD can reach their full potential and have a better quality of life. 1
Therefore, this post aims to inform about what ASD is, its frequent signs and symptoms, forms of diagnosis, and treatment. We'll also discuss the importance of nutritional support in managing this condition.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It arises from differences in the brain leading to problems in social communication and interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests.2
Scientists still don’t know the exact cause of ASD, but the condition tends to run in families. Certain risk factors may also increase the chances of having ASD, such as advanced parent age.1
Signs and Symptoms of ASD
Examples of characteristics related to ASD can include:2
- Avoiding or not keeping eye contact.
- Not playing interactive games by 12 months of age.
- Not noticing when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age.
- Not noticing or interacting with other children to play by 36 months of age.
- Not sharing interests with others by 15 months of age.
- Arranging objects in a specific order and getting upset when this order is changed.
- Repeating words or phrases over and over.
- Focusing on parts of objects.
- Having obsessive interests.
- Engaging in repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping, body rocking, or spinning in circles.
- Having unusual reactions to how things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.
- Having to follow specific routines.
- Delayed language, learning, or movement skills.
Diagnosis of ASD
Early diagnosis is fundamental to ensure that people with ASD receive the necessary support to reach their full potential.2
The diagnosis of ASD is challenging and may require many steps, but it essentially involves looking at the child’s developmental history and behavior.2
Current Treatments for ASD
As mentioned, people with ASD may have different ways of learning, moving, and paying attention, which can make life challenging. The treatments available focus on reducing the symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life. Treatments can include:2
- Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT)
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Medication to improve co-occurring symptoms and conditions
- Complementary and alternative treatments
The treatment plan typically involves a multi-professional team, and it must be tailored to suit the specific needs of the individual.2
Nutritional Support for ASD
People with ASD can be more sensitive to the way some foods smell, taste, or feel. This can make it hard to eat certain foods and limit the diet.3
For example, the person may choose to eat only a specific brand of food or strongly prefer foods of a certain color or texture. 3
While most people can meet their nutritional requirements even with a limited diet, some may not obtain all the essential nutrients they need. Gut problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating can also accompany a restrictive diet. 3
Also, mealtimes can be perceived as unpleasant or stressful for people with ASD due to the number of people, noises, and smells. 2 This may explain why nutritional deficiencies are common in people with ASD.3
The dietitian's work is essential to help reduce anxiety during eating. An occupational therapist can also help ease sensory difficulties.3
Besides eating a nutritious diet high in fiber and including fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, people with ASD may benefit from incorporating dietary supplements that consist of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. A healthcare provider can assist you in determining which supplements are most appropriate for your specific needs.3
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can impact a person's eating behavior, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies. Proper use of dietary supplements with the guidance of healthcare professionals can assist individuals with ASD in improving their quality of life.
- Autism Speaks. Autism Statistics and Facts. https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-statistics-asd#:~:text=Autism%20Prevalence,diagnosed%20with%20autism%20than%20girls.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html
- Autism and diet: food fact sheet. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/autism-diet.html