All About Autism | Symptoms, Causes & Cure - India Parenting Tips - To deal with common parenting issues

Saturday, July 7, 2018

All About Autism | Symptoms, Causes & Cure

When I met Rohan for the first time in school I found him busy working with his learning toys. I asked him how is he doing and found him busy working on his own. I had no knowledge what Autism spectrum disorder is at that time.

It is really unfortunate that knowledge about autism is very low and there is a huge gap between understanding the disorder and providing suitable health care services, especially in India and Africa.

Knowledge about Autism is very important for all parents to know when intervention is required and how to provide suitable support to the child’s need while discussing with health care providers. If you do not know what symptoms and signs to look for in your child, how would it be possible for you to start your early intervention to support him or her? Therefore knowledge is a must. That is why I plan to write on this topic today in order to explain the basic information in a lay man’s language.

Points to be discussed are as follows:

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All About Autism | Symptoms, Causes & Cure

  1. What is Autism?
  2. What are the symptoms and behaviors of Autism?
  3. What are the major causes of Autism?
  4. Can Autism be cured?

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder when a child faces challenges in communication, social behaviors and even nonverbal communications. According to the latest data, 1 out of 59 children in the United States has an autistic presence. It is called spectrum because there are variations and ranges in this kind of communication disorder. One-third of the people who are challenged with autism have an intellectual disability as well. Again one-third of the people with this disorder remain nonverbal. Autism can be diagnosed between age 2 and 3. There are some cases where autism is diagnosed as early as 18 months. Early diagnosis and early intervention of the parents is very important. The more early you understand the problem the easier and fast you can try to aid proper support which can provide better outcomes.

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All About Autism | Symptoms, Causes & Cure

There are three steps which parents need to take in cases when the suspect any difference in child’s behaviors.

Step 1 – Identify the Signs and Symptoms
Step 2 - Get your child Screened.
Step 3 - Get access to service providers.

What are the symptoms and behaviors of Autism?

The symptoms, timings, signs, and severity of Autism vary from person to person, case to case. In some cases, children show signs as early as 18 months while in some cases the child is 24 to 30 months old when symptoms become more apparent. However, there are certain traits common to all. The below-mentioned signs could be termed as red alerts to parents that they must seek professional help and get the child screened to check if the child is autistic or not.

Milestone to fail by 6 months, 9 months, 12 months and 24 months.

Behavior failures
No smile and any other joyful expression. No eye contact.
No copying or sharing of sounds or any kind of non-verbal communication like a smile or any gestures.
No baby babbling and using gestures with hands like waving or pointing at something or handshaking or reaching out.
Not able to use words or two words together as phrases.

Apart from the mentioned signs here are some possible signs of autism that is common for any age groups:
  1. Prefers to be left alone.
  2. Avoids any kind of eye contact.
  3. Feels restless and upset when there is any change in routine and environment.
  4. Highly repetitive in behavioral traits like clapping, talking about the same thing, spinning around or doing something again and again.
  5. Delay in speech and language development.
  6. Sometimes the sudden intense reaction to certain things like color, sound, voice, smell, light and so on.

Get your child Screened and get access to service providers:

If any of the mentioned symptoms and signs are visible in the child, please get help from healthcare professionals and get your child screened. In most of the modern hospitals like Apolo, Fortis and many more facilities for screening children with autistic disorders are available. All you need to do is ask, seek help and reach out to people. However, it is important to keep in mind that there is no such medical test or any kind of genetic test that is possible to detect a child with autistic disorders. There is a modified checklist to screen for Autism in toddlers known as M-Chart –R/F). The M-Chart –R is stage 1 which has a set of 20 questions that parents need to answer in about 5-8 min. The next stage is M-Chart-F is a follow-up question for those who score positive for stage 1 M-Chart –R. These are just designed to identify children at risk and are not absolute tests. One needs to check up with doctors to know the relevant steps to be taken when required as early intervention.

The diagnostic tool to determine autism is known as Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). This test is quip to detect autism across all ages and it has 4 different modules to access. There is another tool known as Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R) which is based on structured interviews to detect autism.

What causes Autism?

There is no straight simple answer to this. It is because the causes of Autism may not be one but many. There are many factors that could be responsible for Autism spectrum disorder. It could be environmental factors like society or environment that one lives in during pregnancy and if that had negatively affected the pregnant mother. It could be genetic through the bloodstream of direct relationships. It also could be biological factors. On the other hand, there are some cases when parents or even some close relatives of the child has certain social impairment and traits that might often seem to be autistic but they are not in reality. Example repetition in speech, stressing over certain words or actions and so on. In very few cases autistic behaviors could be caused by a pregnant woman having certain diseases like German measles, fragile x syndrome, Encephalitis or Tuberous sclerosis (tumor in the brain and other vital organs). The potential environmental factors could also be toxins, pesticides, the presence of heavy metals like mercury and so on.

Can Autism be cured?

Autism cannot be cured. This is a plain fact. While recently there had been some lab experiment on stem cells transplanting showing some positive results in 2017 and another research done on mice showed some promising outcomes; these are only scientific lab research and nothing full proof could be ascertained. However, this statement does not mean that nothing could be done to help a person challenged with the Autistic Disorder. Autism is known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since it is ‘a spectrum disorder’ it means that it differs from case to case. It has a high range. Today Autism is also a model for diversity and people are growing in terms of consciousness to imbibe this and accept autism not as a disorder but as diversity. There is nothing wrong to be different. It does not mean it is abnormal. We need to change that mindset. The mindset that creates barriers between us and them thereby othering them by creating barriers. The stereotype is not the rule. To be different is not a crime. It demands social inclusion. All we need to do is to support and value neurodiversity and help people with disorder live a normal life without making them feel different.

Coming back from where I had started. Today after knowing about autism I feel I am more empowered and equip to help children with autistic traits by supporting them and standing by them along with their parents. I have understood that Rohan, the child I met in school one day is just a child. He is not disabled. He is different. He is not a stereotype. He may not smile at me when I see me. That’s okay. He has a golden heart and mind and I need to have the skills to make his social interaction difficulties easy. 

For more information about other childhood disorders like ADHD, dyslexia please check out my other posts on this blog.


Happy Parenting!

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