What is Autism?

Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are general terms used to classify a group of complex disorders of brain development. The disorders are categorized by degree according to difficulties with socialization, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitious behaviors. Symptoms and signs of autism usually occur between two to three years of age. The disorder is rooted in the early development of the brain. In the 2013 DSM-5 psychiatric diagnostic manual, all autistic disorders now fall under the diagnosis of ASD. Before this change, autism was diagnosed and classified by subsets: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, Asperger syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. ASD is often associated with intellectual disabilities, motor coordination problems, as well as attention-span and physical issues. In some cases, people with ASD are extremely gifted in music, art, math or visual skills.

In the past 40 years, autism has increased ten-fold. One in 88 American children is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. This increase is due in part to improved methods of diagnosing the disorder. ASD affects two million Americans, and is four to five times more common in boys than girls.

What Causes Autism?

Just as there is no one type of autism, there is no one cause for the disorder. Researchers have discovered some genetic factors associated with autism. For many years, scientists believed that genetics accounted for 90 percent of a child’s risk for developing autism. However, recent studies have shown that environmental factors can contribute to a child’s developing autism.

According to one study, oxygen deprivation during labor, delivery and the prenatal period can increase a child’s risk for autism. Neonatal anemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough oxygen-carrying blood cells, can increase a child’s autism risk by eight-fold. Meconium aspiration, a condition in which a stressed fetus inhales waste products in the womb, is associated with a seven-fold increased risk for autism. In addition, birth injury or trauma increased the risk of autism by five times. Moreover, babies with blood types incompatible with their mother’s blood type had four times the likelihood of developing autism. Maternal hemorrhaging increased a child’s autism risk by two times, and infants weighing less than 3.3 pounds had three times the chance of developing autism.

Other factors that increased a child’s risk of having autism include having an older mother and father at the time of conception, as well as a mother who is sick during pregnancy. Research suggests that women who take prenatal vitamins high in folic acid (600 mcg a day) before and after conception can decrease their child’s risk of being diagnosed with autism.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Has Been Diagnosed with Autism

At the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC, we may be able to help if your child was diagnosed with autism. We will attempt to identify the cause of your child’s brain injury that caused autism. If the injury was caused by a failure to treat, inadequate care, or other medical negligence during pregnancy, labor or postpartum care, we will recover any compensation owed to you and your child.

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