How New Research Influences Our Understanding of Autism: Uncovering a Key Factor in Brain Development

About one in 44 children aged eight have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, as research from 2018 shows. This particular research was published in December 2021, and it has made it clear that the number of children with ASD confirmed is rising, as that number was as low as one child in 150 in 2000.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t prove there are that many more children with ASD now than there were back then. Namely, nowadays, it’s possible to diagnose the condition more accurately than in the past. In addition, there is a difference between what was considered autism in the first half of the 20th century and what falls under the symptoms of ASD today. So, how is it that our understanding of autism has changed with time? The latest research gives us the answers.

The Contributing Factors

Our Understanding of Autism

To find better and more effective ways of noticing ASD in children, there has been extensive study of the factors that contribute to its development. According to this specific study, which was conducted in three phases, there isn’t only one cause of ASD. They recognized several factors which were connected to the development of ASD. For instance, they claim that some pregnancy factors, like infection and fever throughout the second trimester of pregnancy, can lead to ASD in a child later on. Similarly, certain immune-response conditions and even environmental factors, such as air pollution and the type of neighbourhood the child grows up in, can contribute to ASD.

Furthermore, they’ve concluded that children with ASD have a higher chance of experiencing gastrointestinal and sleep issues, that they’re more likely to exhibit self-harming behaviours and that they can face delays in their development. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that children with ASD receive various psychotropic medications, which are supposed to deal with their behaviour, rather than adequate behaviour therapy. This makes further research essential so these contributing factors can be followed and ASD diagnosed in children sooner.

Importance of Early Diagnosis

Brain development

Even though there have been some advances concerning the diagnosis of ASD, it’s still quite challenging since there aren’t any specific medical tests that allow a definite diagnosis. To diagnose ASD, doctors must learn about a child’s behaviour and study their developmental history. And while it is possible to identify the disorder as early as 18 months, or even sooner, this doesn’t always happen. In many cases, the final diagnosis comes much later, when the children are significantly older.

Sometimes these children reach adolescence or even adulthood before they’re diagnosed. This makes it impossible for them to receive the necessary early help, which would allow them to fulfil the maximum of their potential, being that there are now some impressive skill-building autism resources. For instance, some fantastic toys help autistic children by calming them down. Parents, teachers and students can use these to help children with ASD, meaning that they can be used at home or school to improve the mood of children on the spectrum. Monitoring children’s development by parents and other family members is a crucial process in determining whether a child falls under the autism spectrum or not. Noting when and how they reach various milestones can make a huge difference, as it allows parents to notice if something is wrong and act accordingly without delay.

The latest advancements in understanding Autism are shedding light on crucial factors in brain development. If you’re seeking effective interventions like aba therapy richmond va, to support individuals on the Autism spectrum, valuable resources are available to provide personalized assistance and foster growth.

Recognizing Facial Emotional Expressions


Not only are limited eye contact and a general lack of smiles and other facial expressions among the earliest signs of ASD, but there is also a belief that autistic children and adults tend to be unable to recognize others’ emotions from looking at them or even interacting with them.

According to an Australian study published in June 2022, there isn’t a vast difference between autistic and non-autistic adults when differentiating between facial expressions and assigning emotions to them. The study included 130 adult individuals, 63 of which diagnosed with autism and 67 of which non-autistic, testing their abilities to identify 12 distinct emotions from facial expressions, six of which were tagged as basic and six as complex emotions.

The results showed that autism-related social difficulties might only become relevant in some social situations, usually those which put these adults under high amounts of pressure. However, when the average results are analyzed, the study concludes that the autistic adults that participated in the survey are somewhat less accurate and slower in distinguishing the emotions of others from their facial expressions. Only a small fraction of autistic participants in the study were below the level of the non-autistic participants when recognizing particular emotions.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms


Several studies and papers exist that analyze the correlation between gastrointestinal issues and ASD. According to one of them an extensive literature review from 2017, over 45% of those with autism exhibited some form of gastrointestinal symptoms. Furthermore, some parents report that their children suffer from abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea more frequently than their non-autistic peers.

Another issue is that autistic children are often highly selective with the food they’ll eat, opting for processed food over wholegrains or fresh fruit and vegetables, which additionally burdens their gut health. When observed as a contributing factor to ASD, the gastrointestinal biome has been a topic of interest for doctors and scientists.

As a result, not only was it established that a gut biome disbalance is tightly connected to some of the symptoms of autism, but there’s even an article from 2020 that explores the use of probiotics in balancing the gut biome and relieving those with ADS of symptoms and behaviours related to autism.

The article in question deals with the effect of gut health on brain function and ways to enhance both. More specifically, it investigates the benefits of probiotics on behavioural symptoms of autism, claiming that, since they can help with irritable bowel syndrome, it’s also logical that probiotics can, to a certain degree, scale down the severity of various ASD-related symptoms by boosting one’s gastrointestinal health. Therefore, seeking a dietitian to recommend the diet that will suit the child or the adult with ASD should also be strongly considered.

Researching autism and its symptoms are becoming increasingly more necessary with the constantly growing numbers of children and adult with ASD diagnosis. Understanding the conditions and seeking new methods and therapies to allow those with autism to grow and develop in every way possible is, fortunately, a subject that the scientific community is determined to explore exhaustively, which brings hope that the situation will only improve with time.

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