All about Autism

 
Contributed by : Dr Chintan Solanki, Ravina Sewani   
All about Autism

Here are Autism Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Precautions, Risk factors, Prevention, Diagnosis, and FAQs.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects children. It mainly affects a child’s social communication which includes language as well as an emotional response to any situation. Children with autism also show some repetitive and restrictive behaviour. One-third of all children who have autism, suffer from intellectual disability, meaning they have a low IQ or mental retardation.


Autism is not a life-threatening problem. Its severity ranges from mild to severe and early diagnosis and intervention can help in a better way.

Children with autism have a trouble understanding what others think and feel. They cannot express themselves properly either with words, facial expressions, or gestures. Children with autism develop uneven skills. They might have a problem in communicating but they might be good at maths, art, or music.


Symptoms:

  1. Lack of eye contact
  2. Repetitive behaviour, example repeating phrases or rocking back and forth
  3. Higher sensitivity to sounds, sights, smells, touch which might seem ordinary to others
  4. Not looking at things when someone points at something
  5. Not paying attention to what the other person is saying
  6. Trouble adapting to changes
  7. Some might also get seizures


The symptoms usually appear before the child turns 3 or sometimes are evident from birth.



Causes: Though the exact causes are not clear, here are a few factors which increase the chances of autism:

  • Genetics of the child
  • Older parents
  • Pregnant woman exposed to drugs
  • Maternal metabolic conditions - like diabetes and obesity
  • Autism runs in the family



Risk Factors: Children of all races can get autism but certain factors increase the risk. They are:

  • Child's sex: Boys are about four times more likely to develop autism than girls.
  • Family history
  • Other disorders
  • Preterm birth
  • Parents' ages: More research is required but children born to older age parents are more likely to develop autism.



Diagnosis: 2 step diagnosis for children


Step 1: Developmental screening - The doctor will examine whether your child's basic skills like leaning, speaking, behaviour, and movement are on track or not. These developments should be routinely checked at the age of 9 months, 18 months, 24 months, and 30 months.


Step 2: If your child shows signs of a problem on step 1 screenings, (s)he might have to undergo a hearing, vision, and genetic testing. By now, you will be advised to work with a child psychologist.



Prevention: There is no way to prevent autism development in children. But mothers can live a healthy lifestyle, avoid drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. These will reduce the chances of autism development.



Treatment:

The treatment patterns which work for one child might not necessarily work for others. Your child's doctor will specially design a treatment plan for your child. Autism cannot be cured but the following treatments are helpful:


Main treatment is Psycho-social intervention. It includes different types of behaviour therapy, cognitive therapy, speech therapy, social skill therapy and special school arrangements. Medicines can help to counter different symptoms like irritability, hyperactivity, depression or some of the repetitive behaviours.


Behaviour therapy: Behaviour therapy is a collective term for several types of therapies used to treat mental health disorders. The treatment focuses on unhealthy behaviours and aims to change them. Behavioural therapy can be used to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorders, anger issues, autism, ADHD, etc. The several types of behavioural therapies are – cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural play therapy, aversion therapy, system desensitisation.

 

Cognitive therapy: It is based on the concept that the way we think about things affects us emotionally. It is based on present thinking rather than past experiences.


Speech therapy: Speech-language therapy addresses challenges with language and communication. It can help people with autism improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social communication. The overall goal is to help the person communicate in more useful and functional ways.

Goals of speech therapy include improving the spoken language, learning nonverbal skills such as signs or gestures, or learning to communicate using an alternative method (such as pictures or technology).


Examples of the skills that speech therapy may work on include:

  • Making clearer speech sounds
  • Matching emotions with the correct facial expression
  • Responding to questions
  • Matching a picture with its meaning
  • Modulating tone of voice
  • Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) - for some children with autism, it's easier to communicate through pictures or technology rather than speaking.


Social Skills Therapy: Social skills therapy work on improving communication with friends, family members, at school, and more. Your child's psychologist might arrange group therapy for this particular skill development.


Depending upon your child's autism intensity, your child's psychologist will layout the treatment plan for your child. Moreover, your child's doctor might also suggest parent training for you and your spouse.



Safety precautions: Secure your house, irrespective of the child's age. Keep sharp objects away, keep harmful objects out of reach. You can use monitoring technology to stay assured about your child's safety.



FAQs regarding ADHD:


Can autism be cured?

Autism is a lifelong disorder. The improvement depends on many factors like severity of the problem, time of diagnosis, IQ of the child and the interventions done. Children with normal IQ and mild to moderate autism can live a normal life with timely intervention.


Any food can help with autism?

There is no evidence that any particular food can help better autism.


Do all children with autism have a low IQ?

No, only one-third of all autistic children have low IQ. Many children with autism have some extra skills and more than average IQ.


To whom should I consult for autism?

If you see any symptoms of autism in your child, it is best to consult a psychiatrist. For an initial consultation, you can visit your child’s paediatrician as well.


Can a child with autism live a normal life?

Yes, many autistic children can live a normal life provided their IQ is normal and the intervention for social communications is done properly.


Is autism a genetic problem?

Yes, there are pieces of evidence that genetic factors are involved in aetiology (causes) of autism but it is not the only factor. There are others like immunological, neurological and developmental factors also involved.


Can a child with autism go to a normal school?

If the IQ of a child is normal, (s)he can definitely go to a normal school.




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