Is Autism A Disease?

About Autism

Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is the broad range of conditions that are characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication. We are well aware of the fact that autism has many subtypes and every person suffering from autism have unique challenges and strengths. However, a common asked question, is autism a disease, needs to be addressed.

Cause of Autism

A combination of environmental and genetic factors influence the development of autism. Some studies point at prenatal viral infection and congenital viral infections as one of the possible causes of autism but more research is needed. Autism spectrum disorder has several symptoms and some of the them are associated with other developmental problems as swell.

Autism is sometimes often accompanied by some medical issues like the following:

  • Seizures
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Sleep disturbances.

Autism affects 1 every 59 children. Many people who have autism have sensory issues too. These include aversions to certain sounds, sights, and other sensations. The hallmark signs of autism appear by the age 2 or 3. It is possible to diagnose even in 18 months. Some development delays may appear earlier.

Is Autism a Disease?

Is Autism a Disease?

A disease is an injury or illness to a healthy body. It is a deviation from the normal baseline health of a person. It is often but not always linked with an external cause such as a virus or exposure to toxins. Autism is a result of the structural differences in the brains of those people who are affected. This may be due to some kind of disease but there is no evidence to support this claim.

The structural differences rule out that autism is a mental illness and it accounts for higher epilepsy incidents in autistic persons. Although, many people with autism can manage themselves without much difficulty, it may be a disability for many as they need lifelong care and assistance. Autism is more a difference compared to a disease. An autistic person’s life comes with a level of disability though there are many enabling aspects. They have different abilities and skills. It is a pervasive and a full-body difference that includes different levels of disability. It depends on the situation where an individual is placed and also the expectations that are set.

Autism may not be disabling inherently because with the right environment, the right intervention, and the right expectations, a child with autism can overcome the intensity of symptoms experienced and many can live an independent life. In short, autism varies from person to person in severity and the outcomes can be totally different based on the care, support and rehabilitation that the person receives. Hence when considering if autism is a disease? It is important to know that autism cannot be considered as a disease, but can be more of a disability.

Disability means an inability to function in a way you want to for achieving the personal goals. There are many severely non-speaking and challenged autistic children who live their lives happily and they can achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. Many autistic families see their children afflicted, as if suffering from a disease and pray for their cure.

But there are families who accept their children as they are and refuse to erase autism. There are parents who have gathered the understanding to accept their child as an individual and as someone who can be violent, can throw tantrums when life becomes too much.

The difference is that these parents suffer less emotionally as they do not fight against the identity of their children and hope someday, autism shall go away.


Many parents of children with autism react to autism with horror and shock. Caregivers of children with autism believe that progress in treatment should result in a reduction of the symptoms of autism. The problem lies in the fact that the symptoms of autism are not symptoms of any disease rather they are the coping mechanisms such as perseveration, stimming, avoiding eye contact, scripting as well as a result that shows how a brain works like an obsession, not reading sarcasm, the absence of central coherence.

These can be considered as signs to detect autism and their way to adjust to life, but these need not remain the identity of the autistic person. In fact, an autistic person has some different abilities than a normal person, which means that they can be considered gifted in that particular area. If these areas are unleashed and developed the autistic person can not only find it easy to live a happy life but can also excel in the area.

When an autistic person can do so much, autism surely does not seem like a disease and can be considered as a disability, affecting people at different levels. Awareness for autism, an early diagnosis and intervention can definitely slower down the developmental lag. Proper rehabilitation, aids in education and training with the help of tools and resources accepted by the autistic child can help a great deal.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 27, 2019

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