What is Autism ?

November 19, 2020 Brain Diseases 1204 Views

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What is the meaning of Autism? 

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition found in children marked by neurodevelopmental abnormalities. Children with autism behave differently in social settings, with respect to their behaviour and communication skills. People living with autism often demonstrate repetitive, stereotyped and restricted interests or behavioural patterns. This condition commonly occurs in children between the age of one to five years, although it usually begins to set in before the age of 3. The incidence is considerably higher in boys than girls with a 4:1 male-to-female ratio. 

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly started observing 2nd April as Autism Awareness Day. Since then, this day commemorates the global aim to spread awareness about autism throughout the world. It features the need to help improve the quality of life of those suffering from the disorder, so they can lead significant lives as a necessary part of society. The colour blue is considered the symbol of autism. Statistics shared by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment show that at least one in 110 children in India suffers from autism.

  • What is Autism?  
  • What are the Symptoms of Autism?
  • How to Recognize Autism in Children? 
  • What are the Causes of Autism? 
  • What are the Treatments for Autism? 
  • How can you help a family member or friend living with Autism?

What is Autism? 

Autism is one of the conditions that belong to the “Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)”. It cannot be detected at the time of birth and the manifestations of the condition are observed by the parents gradually. Usually, it is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. As it is a spectrum disorder, the condition manifests with different severities. Thus, as a result; every patient is different, having their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

When a child is not able to speak properly and is unable to answer when asked questions or tends to repeat the same thing again and again, your medical practitioner may suspect Autism Spectrum Disorder. Commonly, children with autism are unable to make eye contact with others and are afraid to meet new people. Medically, there is no one type of autism and it is defined from patient to patient, depending on the “deficits” or “symptoms” experienced by the patient.

Some risk factors for autism, usually seen in a correlation of some capacity with the condition are:

  • high parental age
  • difficulties during birth 
  • extreme prematurity 
  • high levels of pesticides and air pollution exposure during pregnancy. ( Know more about- What is High-risk pregnancy? )

It is important to note that these are not direct causes of autism and merely frequent associations. The reason autism occurs is still very obscure and is underway in medical research.

What are the Symptoms of Autism? 

Autism influences the way in which an individual sees the world and makes social communication and interaction not quite the same as those without autism, often leading to difficulties. However, symptoms and their severities vary widely across three core areas namely: Social symptoms, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors.

They are marked by:

  • Impaired social skills 
  • Difficulty in speaking 
  • Portrayal of consistent repetitive behaviour and issues in maintaining the regular “give and take” part of normal conversation

Asperger syndrome, a milder manifestation in the spectrum of ASD, shows minor impairments in the social behaviour of the patient. It was previously considered a “high functioning” form of autism, however, has now evolved in definition to take its own identity.

How to Recognize Autism? 

Autism can be identified very easily in children. It is however best if the diagnosis of this disorder is left to be made by a medical practitioner.

A few signs generally seen in association with the disorder are:

  • They don’t prefer to play in a gathering 
  • They like to play a similar game each day 
  • They don’t converse with anybody easily
  • They can’t answer anybody’s question and continue repeating one thing several times
  • Restricted use of hand and finger while talking
  • Restless and very hyperactive
  • They are very different from other children in their social behavior

Autism is easily detectable at the age of about three. The development of children is relatively slower than their non-autistic counterparts. 

What are the Causes of Autism? 

Scientists are not able to find the direct cause of autism; however, research has shown many associations with the condition. It can occur because of  many reasons like:

  • Disease or illness to the mother during the course of pregnancy 
  • Having an immediate family member who has autism
  • The child’s brain is not fully developed due to premature birth. ( Know more about- Home remedies for mental illness )
  • Low birth weight

 What are the Treatments for Autism? 

Autism is treated very differently in children, in comparison to adults. These include Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Verbal Behaviour Therapy, and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). When thinking about treating autism, it must be kept in mind that every patient with this disorder is different. Therefore, their needs are different too. Treatment that may work fantastically for one, may not particularly work for another. 

Mainly, the following two therapies can be used:

1) Behaviour and Communication Therapy – In this therapy, the child is taught how to talk to people, how to carry himself in social settings, how to behave around other people. It places major emphasis on increasing language and communication skills. It also improves social skills, focus, memory, attention, and academics. Another aspect is the identification of and decrease in “problem behaviours”. ( Know more about- What is Speech Therapy? )

2) Educational Therapy– Special education is provided to children with autism disorder. There is a team of experts who educate them on a curriculum that is personalized to their needs. This mainly focuses on rehabilitation, in an attempt to make children living with autism more compatible with living in a society.  ( Know more about- What is Psychotherapy? )

How can you help a family member or friend living with Autism?

Parents, caregivers, guardians, friends, and others can maximize a child’s quality of life by learning about the condition and providing additional emotional support. Caring for someone with autism is quite different from the normal parenting experience; hence there are a few behaviors that are beneficial. For instance, one can help by:

  • Learning how the child is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Accepting that while an autistic person may be different than what is considered conventionally normal, they are still a complete person with their own strengths and weaknesses and feelings that are real and valid
  • Keeping routines and rules consistent
  • The child’s strengths and interests should be built on
  • A support network must be built in order to provide emotional support
  • Any major changes must be planned and prepared for in advance, as far as possible
  • Overstimulating environments must be avoided as far as possible. If unavoidable, the person must be introduced gradually into it  
  • Cooperative behavior can be encouraged by offering choices and setting limits
  • Getting to know and understand the experiences of other autistic people who face similar challenges

Parents/ Caregivers can also work with the child to identify:

  • Causes that trigger a reaction
  • What reactions are likely to occur, when and in response to what
  • Things that they enjoy doing or dislike
  • Their methods of communication
  • Their preferred method of learning
  • Their strengths and weaknesses 

We hope we were able to provide information on Autism and answer your queries through this article.

If you want to get more information and treatment for Autism, contact a Pediatric Surgeon/ Child Specialist

We only aim to give you information through the article. We do not recommend medication or treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and treatment plan.

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