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Meaning of Autism
Autism or Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a cluster of developmental and neurological disabilities that causes serious impairment of abilities to interact and communicate socially, restricted thinking, behavioral issues like repetitive behavior etc. These symptoms of autism are generally first seen in early childhood usually in first 2 years of life. They are also more prevalent in Boys than Girls. ASDs can impact a person’s functioning at different levels ranging from very mildly to severely. A person with ASD may look similar to a normal person but can be differentiated in the way he behaves or communicates with other people.
Causes of Autism
1. It is very difficult to know precisely the exact cause of ASDs. After various researches, it is found out that there is not any single cause of autism.
2. It is sometimes seen as hereditary. The persons having brother, sister or any other family members with an ASD are on a higher risk of getting it.
3. The scientists in various researches revealed that biological, environmental and neurological differences in the brain linked to particular mutation in genes may be the real culprit behind this disease.
4. It has been proved under few studies that certain pregnancy conditions may make a cause for ASD. Some prescription drugs taken during pregnancy are linked to having higher risk of ASD.
5. Prenatal factors like taking antidepressants, not taking adequate folic acid, exposure to chemical pollutants like heavy metals and pesticides during pregnancy may contribute to ASD.
6. Maternal infections during pregnancy or at the time of delivery and other complications during or after delivery like low birth weight child or neonatal anemia may also cause the risk for ASD.
7. In yet another study, it is observed that the people having identifiable medical conditions like genetic disorder, tuberous sclerosis, or symptoms of Down Syndrome or any other chromosomal deformity tend to at a higher risk of having an ASD.
Types of Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs):
These ASDs can be broadly classified in three main categories:
a) Autistic Disorder or the Classic Autism-
This is most common type of ‘Autism’. People with classic autism usually face problems in social interaction, difficulty in communicating, show unusual or repetitive behavior, lack of emotions and may have intellectual disability.
b) Asperger’s syndrome:
In this type, people have minor symptoms of Classic autistic disorder. However, people with this type of autism possess normal to extra ordinary intelligence. They also might find difficulty in social communications and may show some unusual interests but at large, they are not intellectually retardant or face any problem with language.
c) Pervasive Developmental Disorder/ Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS):
People who do not meet the full criteria for classic autism or Asperger’s syndrome or better we can say meet some of the criteria of both autistic/classic disorder or Asperger syndrome can be kep under this category . This group of category also faces problems with interaction and communication with people, exhibits some kind of speech disabilities and have repetitive or eccentric behavior
12 Signs and Symptoms of Autism:
It is very important for the parents to early recognize any unusual behavior in their children as they may be warning signs of ASDs. Below are few signs and symptoms of Autism which the parents should have a keen watch:
1. Not responding to his or her name:
Most children by the end of 10-12 months of age recognize the frequent familiar voice which may be their name. They thus respond to calling by their name. If a child is unable to recognize the familiar voice or doesn’t respond to his name, it may be a symptom of Autism.
2. Avoiding eye contact:
One of the signs of difficulty in Non-verbal communication is poor eye contact. The children suffering from Autism often avoid eye contact with their parents or relatives. They don’t look in the eyes of their parents. They don’t pick up their facial expressions. Therefore, this may be the major symptoms of Autism.
3. Speech and Language Difficulties:
Children with autism may find it difficult to speak in normal tone and voice. They use incorrect simple grammar and also have difficulty in sharing and communicating their needs and desires.
4. Compulsive interests:
Children with autism spectrum disorder are usually rigid, restricted and even obsessive in their activities, behaviors and interests. They often stick to certain specific tasks or toys for not any reason and their daily routine revolves around that specific tasks only.
5. Repetitive gestures and Restricted Behaviour:
The repetitive indulging of child in recurring motions or gestures like spinning or flapping hands, flicking fingers, tapping ears, banging head, rocking back and forth, staring at lights, lining up toys etc. are important symptoms which the parents should never ignore as they may be the danger signals of ASDs.
6. Refrain from Playing with others:
A child with autism will always try to abstain himself or herself from playing with friends or family members as he is unable to react in front of others. He may not be able to decide how to interact and play with them. He will always be interesting in doing his activities own his own.
7. Sharp sensitivity:
Autism can cause a child to alter with his normal senses. He may feel pleasure in doing certain things like patting on walls, rubbing on floors etc. He may not like to be cuddled or touched. He may show hatred to certain loud sounds or may be fussy about some daily use equipments producing different high or low noises.
8. Not playing with toys:
A normal child will love to play with different kind of toys made available to him by his parents, friends or relatives. On the contrary, a child with autism may not be able to recognize how to play with the toys. He may be continuously examining the toy, its parts etc. but not to play with them.
9. Repeating phrases more often:
A child in its infant stage normally babble or repeat certain sounds or words but soon leaves them once advances in months and years. Whereas, autism plagued child will continuously repeat sounds, words or phrases over and over again repeating This unusual behavior is often termed to as echolalia which is a warning sign for the parents to figure out the symptoms of Autism.
10. Make less or no gestures like Pointing:
By the end of 12 months, most of the children normally start pointing out things out of their inquisitive mind and ask from their parents the questions like why, what, when etc. about various interesting things happening in daily routine. But, if a child doesn’t seem reacting to such things pointed out or waved and doesn’t show any interest, it is a predictable sign of Autism disorder.
11. Eccentric Nature and behavior:
You will find some weird or unusual habits in children with autism like he may be fussy about certain things or objects, he may be stubborn for certain habits and have useless preoccupation with narrow topic of interest and doesn’t willing to deviate. For example, he may want a certain toy over and over again, want his bed or furniture in the same way it is always placed in room. He may have difficulty in adapting to the changes in his schedule or surrounding environment.
12. Doesn’t Engage in pretend play:
A child has beautiful innocence and with whatever small toys or objects he has, he try to pretend them or imitate them for expensive and valuable things like Mobile, Bus, trains etc. But, sadly, the child with autism may be void of such pretending skills. If he doesn’t play pretending games or imitate others or use toys in many creative ways, then there is red alert for the parents, which should not be ignored.
Diagnosis of Autism
1. Diagnosis for ASD is bit complicated yet smart process. The parents should keep an eye on their child’s development process and should identify early warning signs related to development issues of their child.
2. Schedule an appointment with the pediatrician if you find any early signs of ASD. Plan autism screening test for your child.
3. Children showing development issues while screening may have to undergo additional evaluation by a team of specialists doctors like child psychologist, speech language therapist etc. who can make comprehensive evaluation so that the outcomes of the evaluation may significantly help in better treatment plan.
4. Adults having signs of ASD should consult a doctor for their ASD evaluation. In later course of testing, adults may be referred to psychologists or psychiatrist with proficiency in treating ASD . The expert may counsel the patient and ask about social interaction problems and communication challenges, recurring behavior or any other cognitive issues being faced by the patient and accordingly suggest the best treatment solutions.
Treatment and Medication of Autism-
Though there are no specific treatments available for dealing with ASDs. However, treating ASDs early by proper diagnosis and getting proper care and attention may help to alleviate person’s difficulties to cope with ASDs and help to maximize his strengths and learn new skills to beat the symptoms of ASD and can live a healthy life.
The difficulties arising out of ASDs are treated by the doctors targeting the symptoms using certain medications in form of Multivitamins, certain class of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), stress and Anxiety and Depression reducing medicines. These along with some other medicines are prescribed to the children or adults having ASDs coupled with applied Behavioral therapies.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are linked to Genetic or biological disturbance and we don’t have direct control over it. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the parents to be proactive and identify any early signs of developmental delays, children finding problems in socializing or communicating or any other symptoms of this kind and immediately consult to pediatrician or ASD specialists so that early diagnosis and proper treatment may offer the best outcomes and help the children; future gems of our nation to lead a happy and healthy life.