Saturday, February 24, 2024

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which is manifested as speech problems, delays in speech, inability to communicate with people, behavioral issues, cognitive impairment and social anxiety. It’s been considered that there is a huge increase in autism with each growing day. The figure might vary but  1 out of 68 children is diagnosed on autism spectrum. Autism signs and symptoms start appearing around 18 to 24 months. The earlier the diagnosis is made the easier it is to outgrow the disability.


Common symptoms of autism include hyperactivity, loss of eye contact, echolalia, repeatedly doing something, following a pattern again and again, not interacting with people, difficulty in expressing emotions and feelings. Children with autism don’t like to be touched and cuddled. They are sensitive to light and sound as they face sensory issues.

Autism is prevalent more in boys than in girls. White children are generally considered to be more autism affected as compared to blacks. Canada has the highest prevalence of autism followed by United States, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel and so on.

What causes autism? The answer to it is still not known but is considered that 70% of autism occurs due to genetic factors and 30% is to be held accountable for by environmental factors. Earlier it was considered that cow milk or dairy food is responsible for causing autism but it has not been proved yet. Similarly vaccination is not a causative agent for autism. Researches however state that metabolic conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension can cause autism. Mothers who conceive at an older age can have autistic children. Pregnant women who are on anti-depressants or consume alcohol also have the tendency to give birth to autistic children. Low birth weight and pre-mature children are often predisposed to autism.

There are three levels of autism from mildest form (level I) to severe form (level III). High functioning autism also known as Asperger’s syndrome is level I autism where children have good language and cognitive skills. They are as smart as other kids but suffer difficulty in social skills. They do not require any substantial support.

Type II autism also considered as broad type where children face language delays, have low social skills and are easily affected by a change in routine. They require substantial support. Researchers say that this level is sometimes present in relatives of people who have autism.

Type III autism which is the most severe form where children have issues with verbal and nonverbal communication and they are highly dependant on people for support in day to day life activities.

How to make the diagnosis for autism?

There is no specific lab test or investigation for the diagnosis of autism. It is diagnosed through behavioral evaluation and developmental assessment by a team of specialized people which include child specialists, child neurologist, developmental pediatrician, psychologist, speech and language therapist, and psychiatrist. The earlier the diagnosis is made the easier it gets to cope up with symptoms of autism. Earlier intervention helps to achieve delayed developmental milestones at appropriate time.

There is no permanent cure to this developmental disorder but there are many therapies which can help reduce the symptoms and can help an autistic child grow out of the disorder.

The most popular and proven therapies are enlisted below:-

ABA also known as Applied Behaviour Analysis is a therapy that works on improving social skills,adaptive learning skills, verbal and non-verbal communications. It teaches new skills to children and is based on positive reinforcement.

Social Skill Class is another way to cope up with social problems. Children are grouped in teams and are motivated to play together, share their feelings and to help each other in fulfilling tasks. This group therapy breaks the social detachment and provides paths for opening up among people and dealing with them.

Learning through pictures: Children who suffer from verbal and non-verbal issues and are difficult to understand their therapists help them through picture exchange communication system. What happens is that children share pictures with their therapists and they help them to give the basic understanding and concept of those things.

Speech Therapy is an important treatment modality. The therapist helps children with speaking, with making sounds and interacting. They help with semantic and pragmatic difficulties.

Occupational therapy helps children in their daily routine activities. They help children to learn ways to unbutton shirt, change their clothes, how to eat with a spoon and child’s major goals and needs.

Family therapy also plays a vital role in dealing with autistic children. Parents can learn different strategies to teach things to their children through playing with them and participating equally. Parents must try to understand the reason behind any tantrum. They should try to figure out ways to calm them. Parents need to be a lot supportive towards their children. Their motivation and consistency can build confidence in their children. Parents are advised to appreciate little details and milestones their child achieves. The co-operative and understanding behavior of a family can improve social and verbal skills of autistic child at a rapid rate. Parents must educate themselves about treatment options. They must know what things trigger their child and to what things he shows a positive response. Parents should never compare their child with other children instead they must celebrate their small successes.

Sensory integrated techniques can help a lot to overcome sensory issues and calm down a child. These techniques include use of equipments such as trampolines, swings and slides. It is based on fun activities and is usually carried out by occupational therapists.

Special education services should be provided to children who take more time than usual to learn.  These services will design the required educational curriculum for your child and will arrange qualified instructors for your child so that your child learns and grows in a great environment.

Some researchers have put a deep emphasis on diet therapy to control autistic behaviors. They recommend the usage of gluten free and casein free diet. Certain proteins are considered to be not digested in autistic children and they need to be cut off from their diet. Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B6, C, D as well as folate and magnesium can help with autism. It is considered that sugar intake causes hyperactivity in such children and should be avoided as much a s possible.

These are so many options available to treat autism but what to chose is the question? Some children respond good to one therapy modality while the other doesn’t responds at all. So you must know that autism is a broad spectrum and cannot be treated by just choosing one type of therapy. Always take opinion from your doctor or therapist and choose multiple therapies which are specifically designed for the symptoms your child encounters. Keep it in your mind that during this journey you cannot deal with all the things on your own instead you need a helping hand, a support group and motivating people which will help you to not feel exhausted and to be always full of energy to deal with your child’s diagnosis.

Most importantly have faith in your child as children with autism can learn to live relatively normal lives.

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Category: Health

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