The US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes autism as a developmental disability that can cause "significant social, communication and behavioural challenges".

Monday marks World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the issue in different countries. But autism is still misunderstood. Some see it as a psychiatric illness or even bad behaviour; but it's one of the fastest-growing brain disorders.

It affects one percent of the world's population - that is an estimated 67 million people.

The causes are still being investigated, but many experts have come to the conclusion that a combination of environmental and genetic factors play an important role. 

The condition is a "spectrum", which means there is not one type of autism and it can affect people in different ways.

Symptoms can include patients being trapped in their own mind, suffering difficulties with communication and social interaction.

Although it can't be cured, it's believed that early intervention can greatly improve symptoms. But when it comes to treatment, many countries still lag behind.

What can be done to better treat those with autism?

Presenter: Hashem Ahelbarra

Guests:

Husena Owaida - doctor who has researched the disorder and has a son who has autism

Margaret Daniele Fallin - chair of the department of mental health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Fouad Alshaban - senior scientist at Qatar Biomedical Research Institute of Hamad bin Khalifa University

Source: Al Jazeera News