What Is Autism? Causes, Symptoms, And Diet + Natural Methods To Manage The Symptoms

Written by , MSc Shaheen Naser MSc Experience: 3 years
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If you have just found out that your little one has autism, know that you’re not alone. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in every 59 children (1).

This behavioral disorder may cause repetitive and stereotypical behavior in the affected lot. While such behaviors may be difficult to observe initially, you may figure it out eventually when your child doesn’t behave as expected at that age.

To know more about this behavioral disorder and its treatment options, read on!

What Is Autism?

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that is characterized by a range of symptoms. The symptoms usually include impairments in social interaction and developmental and communication skills. These symptoms are usually rigid and repetitive.

Due to the range of symptoms associated with autism, this condition is now termed as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This covers a large array of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment.

Children who have autism usually have trouble communicating and understanding what other people think or feel. This makes it extremely hard for them to express their emotions through words, gestures, touch, and facial expressions.

ASD is four times more common in boys than in girls. This disorder is reported across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups (1).

ASD is categorized into five subtypes according to the 5th Edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Types Of Autism

The five subtypes of ASD are:

  • With or without intellectual impairment
  • With or without language impairment
  • Associated with a genetic or medical condition or an environmental factor
  • Associated with a mental, behavioral, or neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Associated with catatonia, which is a behavioral syndrome characterized by the inability to move

An individual can be diagnosed with one or more subtypes or specifiers.

Before being categorized under the DSM subtypes, the individuals in question are likely to be diagnosed with any of the following disorders. They are:

  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Autistic disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome

Most symptoms associated with autism usually emerge during early childhood, i.e., between 12 and 24 months. These symptoms may also occur earlier or later.

Signs And Symptoms Of Autism

One of the earliest symptoms of autism is a marked delay in language or social development.

The symptoms of autism are further divided into two categories according to the 5th Edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. They are:

1. Problems with communication and social interaction
  • Issues with communication like sharing emotions or interests or maintaining a conversation
  • Issues with non-verbal communication, such as trouble maintaining eye contact
  • Difficulties in maintaining relationships
2. Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities
  • Repetitive motions, movements, or speech patterns
  • Fixated interests
  • Rigid adherence to specific behavioral patterns
  • An increase or decrease in one’s sensitivity to certain sensory information, like a negative reaction to sound

While an individual is being diagnosed with autism, they are evaluated within each of these categories, and the severity of their symptoms are noted. To be diagnosed with ASD, the patient must display all the symptoms discussed in the first category of symptoms along with at least two symptoms in the second category.

The exact cause of autism is yet to be determined. Most scientific researches state that there is no single cause of ASD.

Causes And Risk Factors For Autism

A few factors known to cause or increase one’s risk of developing autism are:

  • An immediate family member who has autism
  • Genetic mutations
  • Genetic disorders like fragile X syndrome
  • Delayed pregnancy
  • Low weight at birth
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Imbalances in metabolism
  • A history of viral infection
  • Exposure of the fetus to medications like valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)

Once the child is diagnosed with autism or ASD, immediate treatment and intervention should be availed to help manage the symptoms.

While there is no cure for this condition, the following are some medical treatments that can help in managing ASD.

Medical Treatment

The most commonly availed treatment approaches for autism usually include therapies such as:

  • Play therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy

The affected individuals may also benefit from massages, weighted blankets/clothing, and meditation.

There are also some natural ways, like the ones listed below, that can help in managing the symptoms of autism.

Natural Ways To Manage The Symptoms Of Autism

1. Epsom Salt Bath

You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to a tub filled with water.
  2. Mix well and get the child/individual to soak in the water for 15-20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

People with autism are often deficient in magnesium. An Epsom salt bath can help the skin absorb magnesium and also manage other symptoms of autism (2).

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Autism
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

Omega-3 supplements

What You Have To Do
  1. Give the affected individual omega-3 supplements daily.
  2. Also, include foods rich in omega-3s like salmon, mackerel, soybean and walnut in the diet.

Note: Go for additional supplements after consulting a doctor.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

Omega-3 deficiencies are often linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Restoring this deficiency was found to improve symptoms like lethargy, hyperactivity, and stereotypy in the affected individuals as concluded by a study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (3).

[ Read: Top 10 Foods Rich In Omega 3 Fatty Acids ]

3. Essential Oils

a. Lavender Oil

Lavender Oil - Autism
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of lavender oil
  • A diffuser
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two to three drops of lavender oil to a diffuser filled with water.
  2. The affected individual should inhale the diffused aroma.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The soothing aroma of lavender oil may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and enhance cognitive ability in ASD individuals (4).

b. Orange Oil

Orange Oil - Autism
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of orange oil
  • A diffuser
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two to three drops of orange oil to a diffuser that is already filled with water.
  2. Inhale the aroma of orange oil.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The odor of orange oil was also noted to improve anxiety and mood (4). Hence, it may help in managing similar symptoms exhibited by patients with autism.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics - Autism
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

Probiotic foods and supplements

What You Have To Do
  1. The child must have a probiotic supplement daily.
  2. You can also increase their intake of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir.

Note: Consult a doctor before going for any additional supplements.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once daily.

Why This Works

Gastrointestinal symptoms are quite common in children with autism. Probiotics can positively impact the gut microbes and help alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms (5).

While there is no specific diet designed for those with ASD, diet does play an important role in improving their overall quality of life.

Autism Diet

An autism diet should pay more attention to whole foods like:

  • Lean poultry
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Fish
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Water

Magnesium-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, seafood, and nuts may have a positive impact on those who have autism (6). Seafood is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help with the symptoms of ASD (3). Probiotic yogurt is also a great addition to the diet of an autistic individual (5).

Certain foods can increase inflammation within the body, thereby aggravating existing symptoms in autistic children. Avoid the following:

  • Preservatives
  • Food coloring
  • Sweeteners and sugar

[ Read: Top 30 Anti-Inflammatory Foods + Ways To Fight Inflammation ]

The following are some tips that can help in parenting a child with autism.

Tips For Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum

  • Focus on the positive aspects of your child. Shower them with praises for every well-behaved moment.
  • Adhere to a schedule as children on the spectrum like routines.
  • Indulge in activities that are fun-filled and don’t come across as educational or therapeutic.
  • Take your time to find the best possible combination of treatment approaches to help your child.
  • Involve your child in everyday activities like grocery shopping.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek support from other families or professionals who deal with similar challenges.

Autism is a disorder that needs to be dealt with utmost care and patience. It is very important that parents provide immense support to the affected children to deal with this disorder and help them lead as close-to-normal lives as possible.

Hope this post helped address all your doubts revolving around autism. If you have any more doubts or inputs to deal with this condition better, feel free to post them in the comments box below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can individuals with high-functioning autism live a normal life?

Individuals with high-functioning autism are often found to be quite bright. Compared to those at the lower spectrum, people with high functioning autism may lead a life that is as close to normal as possible. However, they too find it equally challenging to deal with the disorder.

Is CBD oil good for autism?

The therapeutic effects of CBD oil may help alleviate behavioral symptoms of anxiety and seizures associated with autism.

How to test for autism in adults?

There is no standard diagnostic procedure for adults suspected to have ASD. Primarily, clinicians diagnose ASD in adults through a range of in-person interactions and observations.

How does autism affect the brain?

Autism is believed to affect the entire brain of the affected child. Such children have increased number of synapses between the brain cells.

When to visit a doctor for autism?

If you notice any autistic or unusual behavioral symptoms in your child, visit a doctor to confirm the diagnosis for the behavioral disorder.


Articles on thebridalbox are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder” Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder-A Randomized, Controlled 12-Month Trial.” Nutrients, US National Library Of Medicine.
  3. Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, US National Library Of Medicine.
  4. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office” Physiology & Behavior, ScienceDirect.
  5. Can probiotics benefit children with autism spectrum disorders?” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  6. Magnesium profile in autism.” Biological Trace Element Research, US National Library Of Medicine.

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Shaheen Naser
Shaheen NaserHealth & Wellness Writer
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from Bharathiar University. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology, Medical Genetics, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Genetic Counseling.

Read full bio of Shaheen Naser
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