1. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is a range of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, social and communication impairments. These disorders are classified as spectrum disorders because their symptoms and severity vary among individuals.

2. How do I understand if my child is autistic?

Symptoms of autism can be seen from infancy or early childhood. It is possible to diagnose autism as early as 12-18 months. Some of the common signs of autism are- repetitive behaviors, difficulty in verbal communication, inability to make eye contact with people, difficulty in motor skills, lack of reasoning skills, etc.

3. If my child has autism, does that mean he/she is a genius?

While there are instances of some autistic children being exceptionally focused or skilled in solving abstract problems, there is no scientific correlation between autism and genius. It is true that some geniuses tend to have autistic traits- a 2015 study by Cambridge University found that autistic traits are more common in people involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, which are historically considered to require more brainpower. Even so, it would be incorrect and unscientific to assume that all children with autism are geniuses. There are also children who are said to belong to the low-functioning side of the autism spectrum, wherein their cognitive and intellectual abilities are below the usual levels for neurotypicals. 

4. Can a child with autism attend regular school?

Yes, it is possible for a child with autism to attend regular school. If the child is provided with early intervention to overcome difficulties in learning, communication and reasoning, and if they are taught to function in a group setting, then they will have no difficulty to integrate into a regular school system. However, more often than not the children require different teaching styles to suit their learning capabilities. Not all mainstream schools are autism-friendly in this regard, which is why children often end up dropping out of these schools, and instead function better special classrooms that are suited to their needs.

5. If my child has autism, does that mean he/she cannot feel any emotion?

There is a common misconception among people that individuals on the autism spectrum cannot feel emotions. Children with autism are perfectly capable of feeling emotions; the difficulty arises only when they try to articulate and communicate these emotions. Due to a lack of understanding of social and communication skills, children on the spectrum are unable to express themselves fully or understand what others mean. However, these challenges can easily be overcome with the right kind of speech and communication therapy. 

6. Can a child on the autistic spectrum lead an independent life?

Autism affects individuals in varying degrees and manifests itself in different variations of symptoms. No two individuals have the same kind of challenges and abilities, and so it may be difficult to predict their future with certainty. However, early and focused intervention has been effective in improving a lot of these setbacks. Many children with autism grow up to lead independent lives, while some may require some sort of support in their daily lives. 

7. Is autism curable?

Autism cannot be permanently cured, but certain challenges and difficulties caused by ASD can be improved upon through timely therapy and intervention.

8. What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

It is the second most common type of ASD and is a milder form of autism. They possess higher language development and often have normal intellectual ability. The main symptoms of Asperger’s is a lack of social communication skills, disinterest in social, verbal and nonverbal interactions with others, intense interest in limited subjects, repetitive movements, poor muscle coordination, aggressiveness and sensory sensitivity; they may also have depression or anxiety.

9. What are the causes of ASD?

Till date, scientists have been unable to pinpoint a cause for autism spectrum disorder. However, it is commonly believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors caused ASD. Statistics show that there are families that have more than one children with autism- the chances of a child being autistic are higher if they already have a sibling (or even other family members) on the autistic spectrum. 

10. Is early intervention effective?

Early intervention may be effective in helping the child overcome many setbacks caused by ASD. Early intervention includes a series of therapies and continuous exercises that help the child improve through speech therapy, physiotherapy, learning therapy, etc.