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Autism is a developmental spectrum disorder that becomes apparent within the initial years of life. Children who have autism may look like other normal kids, but their behavior would differ from a normal child. Their interaction with others will be different or at times they won’t interact at all.

DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM:

Autism affects mainly three specific areas of child development. These areas are named as the triad of impairment. These areas include:

  • Social Development
  • Repetitive behavior and communication
  • Restricted Interest

People with autism cannot understand others’ perspectives. They suffer from mindblindness which means they cannot attribute mental states to other people. They also face challenges in communicating with others. Sometimes they are unable to communicate at all.

A child with autism will repeat the same lines, again and again, this condition is known as “Scripting”. They may show the same repetitive behavior referred to as “Stims”.

They also show a lack of interest and have a restricted range of interest and at times they become obsessive about interest.

SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM:

Mostly the symptoms of autism appear at the age of 12 months. Few symptoms show severity when the child will catch up with its peer by 36 months. Some children show a significant delay in developmental behavior. Fewer children may not show symptoms in early life so they may receive a diagnosis of autism later in life.

Some other symptoms may include:

  • The child will prefer to stay alone
  • The child will not like to be touched or held
  • Spinning of objects, watching objects fall, or licking non-food items.
  • Repetition of statement
  • Repetitive motor movement
  • No response to orders given.
  • Delayed speech
  • Poor eye contact
  • No imaginative play

All children are different from each other. Some may show one symptom and while others may show some other symptoms. The parents or the caretaker should note the developmental stages of the child. If any difference is seen in the normal developmental pathway then immediately the child should be taken to the doctor. Autism in girls is more likely to be diagnosed 1.5 years later than in boys that is why autism in girls is a more serious condition when compared to boys.

AUTISM SCREENING TOOLS:

The screening tools used for the diagnosis of autism include:

  • ARI’s diagnostic checklist
  • The Ages & stages questionnaire
  • The modified checklist for autism in toddlers

CAUSES OF AUTISM:

There are several causes of Autism:

Autism spectrum disorder may be caused due to the interaction of multiple factors in complex ways. Autism is not etiologically homogeneous. There are different types of autism with different etiologies. Some children show skill regression with normal initial development whereas some other children show delayed development.

GENETICS:

Genes play an important role in autism disorder but recent studies do not explain the full picture of genetics’ role in autism. No single gene has been identified as responsible for causing autism as several genes cause autism. If one child has been diagnosed with autism then the probability of other children having autism is estimated between 2 and 14%.

VIRUSES:

Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) is trying to understand the contribution of environmental factors to the etiology of Autism. Few studies proved that autism may be linked to maternal exposure to certain viruses and chemicals. The preservative thimerosal in children vaccination also accounts for autism in some cases.

RISK FACTORS:

The researchers have said that autism may be caused by majorly due to environmental factors such as heavy metals or pesticides. These chemicals may be responsible for causing inflammation in the brain of the child that leads to neurodevelopmental disorder. The difference in brain development can be detected soon after birth or even before birth. Although the behavioral and social signs tend to be observed after 18 months. Children who have a sleeping issue or food selectivity in the future are at risk to be diagnosed with autism.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AUTISTIC BOYS AND GIRLS:

The boys are at more risk of autism as compared to girls. It has been seen that smaller genetic alteration or mutation or few errors may cause autism in boys whereas severe genetic mutations are observed for autism in girls. The studies also show that children are more likely to inherit the genetic mutations that cause autism from their mothers. The girls with autism may be better at imitating socially appropriate behavior and have lesser behavior problems than boys.

TREATMENT OF AUTISM:

PHYSICAL THERAPY:

Physical therapy is conducted to restore the mobility, neurological developmental, or orthopedic disabilities in the child suffering from autism.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY:

The main occupation of the child is to grow, learn and play. This occupational therapy is used to develop motor skills, coordination, and peer skills in a child having autism.

SPEECH THERAPY:

The child suffering from autism faces difficulty in communicating or at times is unable to communicate. The speech therapist strengthens the child’s communication power and feeding skills so that they can participate in daily life activities.

TYPES OF AUTISM:

There are three types of autism:

AUTISTIC DISORDER:

It is also known as classic autism. Children with autistic disorder have language delays, communication challenges, and unusual interests. Children with autistic disorder also have an intellectual disability.

ASPERGER SYNDROME:

Milder symptoms of the autistic disorder are known as Asperger syndrome. The child may face social challenges and unusual behavior. The child with Asperger syndrome may not face difficulty in communication or intellectual disability.

PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER:

It is also known as atypical autism. The child in PDD has milder symptoms as compared to autistic disorder. The PDD patient may only face social and communication challenges.

HOW TO KEEP THE CHILD FROM AUTISM SAFE?

The child at risk sometimes does not develop symptoms until they reach the age of schooling. To develop the social skill in such children peer to peer interaction should be developed. Wandering in autism is a very high concern throughout their lifetime. The parents of a child with autism should not spend their entire lives in fear. There are many tips for the caretakers or guardians which should be followed to keep the children safe.