Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD.

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It is not known how often this outcome happens, with reported rates in unselected samples ranging from 3% to 25%. Although core difficulties tend to persist, symptoms often become less severe with age. Acquiring language before age six, having an IQ above 50, and having a marketable skill all predict better outcomes; independent living is unlikely in autistic people with higher support needs. Autistic people experience deficits in their ability to develop, maintain, and understand relationships, as well as difficulties adjusting behavior to fit social contexts. ASD presents with impairments in pragmatic communication skills, such as difficulty initiating a conversation or failure to consider a listener’s interests to sustain a conversation.


Often children show symptoms of autism within the first year. A small number of children appear to develop normally in the first year, and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age when they develop autism symptoms. Autistic people may find some aspects of communication and social interaction challenging. They may have difficulty relating to people and understanding their emotions.

The most common medical condition occurring in people with ASDs is seizure disorder or epilepsy, which occurs in 11–39% of autistic people. The risk varies with age, cognitive level, and type of language disorder. Conversely, some multidisciplinary research suggests that recent human evolution may be a driving force in the rise of a number of medical conditions in recent human populations, including autism. Differences between the previously recognized disorders under the autism spectrum are greater for under-responsivity than for over-responsivity or for sensation seeking . An estimated 60–80% of autistic people have motor signs that include poor muscle tone, poor motor planning, and toe walking; deficits in motor coordination are pervasive across ASD and are greater in autism proper. Other behavioral characteristics include abnormal responses to sensations and problems keeping a consistent speech rhythm. The latter problem influences social skills, leading to potential problems in understanding for interlocutors.

Recognizing Autism in Children

Symptoms begin to appear during the first three years of a child’s life. People in authority should be equally careful about how they label people in their sphere of influence. It’s also possible for a person to have both autism and ADHD. Autism acceptance requires empathy and an understanding that ASD is different for everyone. Families who have autistic loved ones may be concerned about what life with ASD looks like for an adult. A 2017 literature review concluded that the male-to-female ratio for autistic youth was actually closer to 3 to 1. Autistic children may find that certain exercises can help in easing frustrations and promoting overall well-being.

As with neurotypical people, autistic people may benefit from seeing a therapist if they are experiencing anxiety, work stress, or feelings of isolation. It may be difficult to find a specialist who can diagnose ASD in adults. Individuals who would like a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one may need to do research to find a provider with experience diagnosing autistic adults. Many clinicians may not be familiar with the signs of ASD in adulthood. This is especially true if the patient’s symptoms are not severe or if the patient also has other conditions, for example, anxiety. Research shows that one of the common diagnostic tests for autism in adulthood, the ADOS-2, may be fairly reliable.

Families who care for an autistic child face added stress from a number of different causes. Parents may struggle to understand the diagnosis and to find appropriate care options. They often take a negative view of the diagnosis, and may struggle emotionally. More than half of parents over age 50 are still living with their child, as about 85% of autistic people have difficulties living independently.

Problems with communication and social interaction

Brochures and Fact Sheets Download, read, and order free NIMH brochures and fact sheets about mental disorders and related topics. Statistics NIMH statistics pages include statistics on the prevalence, treatment, and costs of mental illness for the population of the United States. Health Topics NIMH offers expert-reviewed information on mental disorders and a range of topics. Social communication and interaction skills can be challenging for people with ASD. There are many different factors that have been identified that may make a child more likely to have ASD, including environmental, biologic, and genetic factors. The cause of ASD is unknown, but several genetic and non-genetic risk factors have been characterized that, alone or in combination, are implicated in the development of ASD.

Thus it can be hard to determine whether a behavior indicates a person is “autistic.” To a degree, it’s a matter of how the behavior is expressed rather than whether it is expressed. Verywell Health’s content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

In fact, lots of autistic people have little or no ability to code, operate complex software, or use household electronics. An autistic person can be completely nonverbal and not use spoken language. Any of these traits can occur in someone who is not autistic, too. Autism is diagnosed, therefore, if all traits are present. In addition, the traits must not be explainable by another diagnosis. The goal is to offer a reward when you “catch them being good.” When you notice that they are using a new skill or are doing something good, praise them for it.

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