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Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Literature Review


Autism is a disorder that science has not yet studied thoroughly, although it is a common problem in society. Therapists have only partially learned how to diagnose it, understand the causes of its occurrence, and evaluate its impact on human life. However, although autism is a poorly studied illness, the knowledge available to scientists allows them to adjust and regulate its effect on a person and reduce its manifestations in adulthood.

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Autism is a broad concept for social perception as it covers several diverse abnormalities associated with a person’s behavioral characteristics. Scientifically, it is correct to talk about this disease as an autism spectrum disorder because scientists classify various types of ASD depending on the symptoms and degree of their manifestation. However, in general, autism is the deficit of social communication and the repeated sensory-motor behaviors that arise due to some genetic or other reasons (Lord, Elsabbagh, Baird, &, Veenstra-Vanderweele, 2018). This definition demonstrates that although society often attributes autism to a disease that affects a person’s intellectual abilities, it is a disorder that affects social functions. Moreover, people with autism, on the contrary, show fantastic intellectual skills in certain areas, such as mathematics, art, or history.

Today, autistic people can get a higher education, find a job, create a family, and live like ordinary members of society, if their external symptoms of the disorder are manifested to a mild degree. However, they may also have difficulty with social communication, being in public places, and even everyday routine, if autism has a higher degree of manifestation. For example, loud sounds or crowds can scare a person who has a problem with sensory perception, even if his or her intellectual abilities are highly developed. In addition, in some cases, people with autism can have speech disorders, repetitive moves of their limbs, or experience cramps, which impedes their independent life. However, autistic people are most often full members of society if they use the right approach to the treatment and development of social and commutative skills.

In recent years, the number of people with autistic disorders has increased both in the world and in the United States (Sealeya et al., 2016). However, this trend can be associated with an improvement in the quality of diagnosis and early detection of the disorder in children. For example, according to Kitzerow, Teufel, Wilker, and Freitag (2015), the method of brief observation of social communication change helps measure autism symptoms and has noticeable results. This approach to the study and measurement facilitated early intervention in the development of autism and the elimination of its external manifestations. Such a change in methods of evaluation and treatment means that, in some cases, the intellectual and social development of autism can be as successful as in a person without a disorder. There are also other ways for determining autism that doctors usually use for diagnosis, and they are based on symptoms that manifest at different stages of a person’s life. These methods vary depending on the focus on certain secularities of the individual’s development and his or her interaction with the outside world.

Symptoms are conditionally divided into sensory, communicative, and social, since they can manifest themselves in different ways depending on the stage and characteristics of development. Social symptoms are expressed in the inability of the child or the adult to maintain social connections, communicate with people, and recognize their emotions. Young children may not respond well to their names and avoid interactions with their parents. Communicative symptoms in children are manifested in the repetition of phrases, inability to focus on the topic of conversation, and answer questions. Sensory symptoms are associated with a weak or intensified reaction to light, sound, smell, and other external stimuli. A repeating gesture or action is also a visible manifestation of the disorder. Parents and doctors can diagnose autism by using these indicators in the early stages and preventing its further development.

However, despite an extensive study of the manifestations of autism, scientists still find it challenging to determine the causes of such disorders. Researchers note that autism spectrum disorders are strongly associated with genetic causes (Lord et al., 2018). This statement means that a gene mutation can cause autism; however, this issue has not yet been studied enough to claim a direct relationship between any genetic characteristics and the occurrence of the disorder. According to another study, environmental factors such as synthetic, neurochemical, and aromatic chemicals can cause autistic disorders by affecting the fetus (Sealeya et al., 2016). The influence of environmental factors is a possible reason for autism, but an exact list with proven facts and data still does not exist. At the same time, the common stereotype that vaccines cause autism is false, since multiple studies confirm the lack of connection between these two factors. There are also suggestions that moral pressure, as well as psychological trauma, can also cause developmental delays and symptoms of autism (Sealeya et al., 2016). Thus, the uncertainty of the data limits methods for preventing autism, as they cannot affect the causes.

Nevertheless, some practices help develop the social, communicative, and motor functions of a person and minimize the impact of autism on human life. In the case of autistic people, a timely diagnosis is essential for treatment, since young children are most susceptible to learning and therapy, but the process of developing abilities becomes more difficult in adulthood. Recent studies show that identifying sensory symptoms is one of the most effective as it helps detect autism at an early age (Robertson & Baron-Cohen, 2017). The process of treatment can include medication to decrease insomnia and convulsions, general therapy, and training to develop social and communicative skills. Therapy is also aimed at eliminating fears and panic states because of loud noises or bright light. Bruin, Blom, Smit, Ja van Steensel, and Bögels (2015) discovered that mindfulness training for adolescents and their parents leads to an improvement in the quality of life and social communication of adolescents with autistic disorders. Other therapeutic interventions are also an effective alternative; however, they have to consider the peculiarities of each autistic disorder.

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In conclusion, autism is a disorder that manifests itself in problems of the social, communicative, and sensory abilities of a person. This disorder is not associated with intellectual impairment, and vice versa, autistic people, often exhibit highly developed skills. The reasons for the emergence of this problem have not been sufficiently studied by science, so the possibilities for its prevention are also limited. However, there are many methods of treating and controlling the symptoms of autism that help people to improve their skills, interact in society, and live their life like ordinary men and women with typical development.


  1. Bruin, E., Blom, R., Smit, F., Ja van Steensel, F., & Bögels, S. (2015) MYmind: Mindfulness training for youngsters with autism spectrum disorders and their parents. Autism, 19(8), 906-914
  2. Kitzerow, J., Teufel, K., Wilker, C., & Freitag, C. M. (2015) Using the brief observation of social communication change (BOSCC) to measure autism‐specific development. Autism Research, 9(9), 940-950.
  3. Lord, C., Elsabbagh, M., Baird, G., & Veenstra-Vanderweele, J. (2018). Autism spectrum disorder. The Lancet, 392(10146), 508–520.
  4. Robertson, C.E. & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017). Sensory perception in autism. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18, 671–684.
  5. Sealeya, L.A., Hughesa, B.W., Sriskandaa, A.N., Guesta, J.R., Gibsona, A.D., Johnson-Williamsa, L., Paceb, D.G., & Bagasraa, O. (2016). Environmental factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders. Environment International, 88, 288-298.

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