Understanding Autism – A Brief View
Honestly, it was not a polite experience when at a local market I saw a young kid screaming and exhibiting certain signs and drawing attention and frowns. His mother too was uncomfortable. Understanding Autism is a difficult thing and we usually end up jumping to conclusions just like me. I thought it is sheer bad parenting. My counselor brother explained to me the possible causes and suggested that if I happen to run into them again I should mention about special schools meant for such kids. The next day I met the lady at the same store and with initial denying to reluctant acceptance, she agreed.
Autism is neither a disease nor an illness. It is a disability that affects an individual’s communication and interaction skills. This disorder is caused by some disruptions in the nervous system and affects the cognitive, motor, learning, and interacting abilities.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of symptoms which differ in severity and accordingly they are categorized. But, with adequate motivation, encouragement, help, and support from the family, friends, school, and therapist people suffering from ASD can become independent. Other factors like the severity of the disorder, the child’s learning speed, and interest also plays an important role in it.
Characteristics Of The Disorder:
Following are some of the characteristics commonly exhibited by all who suffer from this disorder. Knowing and learning about these attributes will help parents gauge the situation.
- Poor eye contact when they are addressed or when looked at. They avoid looking in eyes even when they are fed.
- Do not respond with a smile when smiled at. Their response to social rules of behavior is bad.
- They have a difficulty processing any piece of information shared with them.
- Their reaction to sensory stimuli is either too high or two low. For example, loud noise may not trouble them as much as some other sound might, and so on.
- Screaming and throwing tantrums is one of the ways used by them to block any disturbance they feel. They scream for their needs, they yell when they do not want something, and when they get uneasy etc.
- Their reaction could be extreme when they do not like certain food, smell, cloth, touch, etc. They do not like to be touched.
- Their walking, running, reading, writing, and speaking abilities develop late and are clumsy.
- The initial mumbling as an infant stops after a few months and the kid does not interact with others.
- They have trouble following gestures and looking at things that are pointed to. They have trouble with eye movement.
- They do not ask for help even when needed because of their weak interacting skills, and they substitute words with screaming.
- They face a hard time sharing things with others and enjoying a game with other kids. They prefer to be left alone. Unlike other kids, they do not share their toys or play with others.
- They have a very restricted vocabulary and whatever little they speak; it is picked up from television or by listening to adults and they keep repeating the words.
- These kids prefer to have a set routine and throw tantrums, and do not adjust to any variations.
- Interactive games do not interest these children and they get obsessed with only one or two interests.
- They are not interested in people around them and usually do not respond when their name is called.
- Repeats the question instead of answering it.
- Face difficulty following directions, or instructions.
- In some extreme cases the child might start injuring self by banging the head on floor, or walls, cutting or biting hands or legs etc.
- They like to run or move in circles, flap their hands, or do some action repeatedly.
- They stare blankly looking at the ceiling or in the space.
Causes Of ASD:
Scientists, experts, and doctors are trying to find out the real cause of the condition, but so far nothing concrete has been established. Though it is believed that genetics plays an important role and other environmental factors like unhealthy exposure to chemicals, toxins, pesticides in foods, pollution, certain drugs, and food additives etc are being studied. It is believed that environmental factors can also trigger certain disturbances in the normal development of brain.
Available Treatment Options:
The first thing as a parent you should do is to take your child to a counselor or a therapist or a pediatrician and screen him. The tests would determine the severity and accordingly a program would be designed to help the child.
- Behavior therapy helps the child work on his communication skills which is essential for the kid to adjust to the everyday life.
- Communication therapy is proposed to develop necessary basic skills to let the child express his feelings and share his ideas. This also aims at improving verbal and non-verbal communication abilities.
- Pivotal response therapy aims at making the child self-sufficient and be able to take care of self.
- Sensory integration helps the patients adjust to the different stimuli. Taste, touch, smell, vision, and hearing adjustments are taught.
- Certain drugs are prescribed in small doses to relax the anxiety, disturbances, and other situations.
Other than these options of treatment, understanding autism by joining a support group, meeting with other parents with autistic child can be helpful. An encouraging family, friends, school, teachers, and therapist would be of immense help in this condition.