Autism: About, causes and co-occurring conditions
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Autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder or ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. It presents in many ways and can affect:
- sensory processing
- social communication
- ability to carry out certain tasks
- emotional and behavioural regulation
Every Autistic person has a unique combination of symptoms, symptom intensity and co-occurring conditions. Since everyone experiences the condition differently, supports should match your individual needs.
People on the autism spectrum use many different terms to describe themselves. 'People with autism' is person-first language. 'Autistic people' is an example of identity-first language.
If you're not Autistic, use the language that the Autistic people in your life ask you to use.
The cause of autism isn't known, though some scientists suggest genetics and environment likely play a role.
Researchers worldwide are working to understand the factors that can increase the likelihood of a person being Autistic. However, it's important to keep in mind that an increased chance is not the same as cause.
- not contagious
- not caused by vaccination
- not caused by parenting style
Co-occurring health conditions
People on the autism spectrum may also have co-occurring conditions that can affect overall physical health, such as:
- sleep disorders
- digestive issues
- uncommon responses to pain (over- or under-reacting)
- metabolism problems (how the body breaks down food for energy)
Some common co-occurring mental health conditions for those on the autism spectrum can include:
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
These health conditions may appear at any time over a person's life.
If you care for an Autistic person who communicates differently to you, you may find it hard to tell if they have other conditions. However, it's important to identify and diagnose these conditions to help understand what extra supports they need.
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