As a parent to an autistic child, you are deeply concerned about your baby’s development and ability to interact and communicate. A complex developmental disability, autism spectrum disorder or ASD affects a child’s ability to communicate. As a result, the child lags behind in various aspects and needs special care. The signs of ASD appear during early childhood, and the child is not able to easily interact with others.
What is ASD
It is a brain-based condition. Since the child’s brain has not developed fully, he faces all sorts of developmental problems. Autism signs start to show up when the child is as young as two year old or doctors may be able to identify ASD behavior in infants.
Not all people with ASD show the same type of behavior, though there are primarily two types of behaviors. This includes social communication or interaction behavior and restricted or repetitive behaviors.
Common ASD Symptoms
Restrictive/ repetitive behavior includes:
- Having an intense interest in specific topics while this may be related to facts or numbers.
- Unable to make eye contact and hence, remains introvert
- Having an overly focused interest. This may be on specific parts of objects or any moving object.
Interaction behavior or social communication includes:
- Developmental disability
- Not showing keen interest in objects or activities
- Low tendency to listen to others or concentrate on things
- Getting upset by a slight change
- Seems like unhappy being placed in a new setting
- Lack of interest in relationships due to lack of effective communication
- Having problem communicating or interacting with others
- Responding in an unusual way to both affection and anger
- Not paying attention to respond to their name being called
- Being slow to gain attention while remaining shy of others
- Nonstop talking on a favorite subject even though nobody seems interested to listen
- Not giving a chance to others to respond
- Making weird gestures or facial expressions that are not in sync with what others talk or gesture at
- Repeating words or phrases that fall on their ears
- Using odd words though have a special meaning are unknown in common jargon
- Talking in an unusual tone that may sound either robot-like or flat
- Not being able to understand another person’s point of view because of failure to communicate
Some children with ASD have other difficulties. This includes sensitivity to noise, light, or temperature. It is not uncommon for autistic people to experience digestion or sleep problems. Such people get irritated without any cause. They may exhibit sensitivity to taste, sound, smell, sight, or touch – may be under or over sensitive.
What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a “spectrum condition” that affects each individual differently. Although there is no specific cause of autism, research studies relate the disorder with genetics and the environment. If you have a family history of autism, your child might be at a risk of ASD. But your child may still get autism if nobody in the family is or was autistic.
While the autism symptoms impair some children mildly, it may leave others severely disabled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 68 kids has been diagnosed with ASD.
Surprisingly, despite developmental disability, autistic children may have showcase strengths and abilities. This includes:
- Strong visual and auditory learning skills
- Brilliant in some subjects, including science and math or even music
- Having above-average intelligence
- Sharp learning ability
- Sharp memory skills
How is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed?
Autism is treatable. However, early diagnosis is crucial. Early intervention can lead to significantly improved outcomes.
The doctor will base their autism diagnosis assessment on a few signs and symptoms exhibited by the person. An autistic child has persistent difficulties with social communication. This becomes apparent while interacting with a doctor. There are some symptoms that may show up only in certain situations and conditions.
Figuring out if your child has an autism spectrum disorder may be challenging at the beginning. If you know the early signs of autism, you may be able to find if something is seriously wrong with your child.
Your child with following symptoms probably has autism disorder.
- Difficulty interacting and communicating with others
- Problem using eye contact to grab attention
- Language problem
- Signs of repetitive behavior
- Narrow interests or activities
- Inability to function socially
- Lack of interest in others
- Lack of interest in playtime with kids of same age
General Developmental Screening
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD screening should be done on a child of about 18- and 24-months to see if there are any developmental delays. Children born with a low birth weight are at a risk of autism. Almost one in 30 premature babies face the risk too.
Doctors will refer children with some developmental problems for the next stage of evaluation.
The Stage 2 ASD
A team of expert health practitioners will be responsible for assessing the child’s cognitive skills, language abilities, and age-appropriate skills at this stage. By and large, the team often includes:
- A developmental pediatrician
- A child psychologist/ psychiatrist
- A speech-language pathologist
ASD occurs along with other learning disorders. Therefore, a child with potential symptoms should undergo comprehensive evaluations, including
- Hearing test
- Blood tests
Furthermore, the outcome of the evaluation is important to plan out a treatment for autism spectrum disorder.
Helping Autistic Children
Early intervention can play a crucial role in improving the child’s quality of life, reducing difficulties, and helping them acquire new skills. In addition to this, you may help an autistic child in a number of ways.
- First of all, increase your awareness of the disorder. Accordingly, plan your special care.
- Keep a detailed notebook to record every single conversation with doctors and teachers.
- Keep a record of the doctor’s reports and evaluations. Moreover, study each and every report in the light of your knowledge about ASD.
- Contact autism advocacy groups to learn about autism-specific programs while continuing therapeutic treatment
- Get in touch with a local autism expert and plan out a treatment program.
- Enroll in an autism support group. However, avoid people not caring for these special children.
- Use prescribed medication to treat some common ASD symptoms, including repetitive behavior, aggression, irritability, anxiety, hyperactivity, and depression.
While caring for an autistic child is challenging, do not ignore your own health as a caregiver. Join autism support groups to learn new ways to peacefully deal with certain autism behavior and remain at peace yourself.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com