Autism in children
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) encompass a range of neurodevelopmental disorders which start in early childhood and last lifelong. It includes what we call autism, asperger’s disorder, pervasive developmental disorder. They may or may not be associated with other disorders which occur in childhood like ADHD, LD, Intellectual disability etc.
Signs of Autism:
Patients of ASD typically have developmental milestone regression (they lose the skills acquired while growing like language, intelligence, socializing etc), inadequate language and social skill development as expected for the age and repetitive or stereotypic movements and behaviors. These children have a fixity for the type of toys, foods, clothes, resist changes in environment and daily routines, lack joint attention, lack ability to point to things, avoid eye contact and remain self-absorbed. They have a liking for fingerplay, rotatory and round objects. Due to such behaviors, they may often be wrongly classified as having intellectual disability.
Strengths and abilities may include having above-average intelligence – the CDC reports 46% of ASD children have above average intelligence, being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time, being strong visual and auditory learners and exceling in math, science, music, or art.
The cause of this disorder is unknown. It often results due to an interaction of genetic and environmental factors, as suggested by extensive research.
Treatment for Autism:
There are no known preventive or curative therapies for children with ASD.
Typical treatment for these children involves early behavioral training, social skills training and speech therapy, all together or in combination or one by one, depending on the need of the child. Medicines have a limited role in controlling those symptoms which interfere with therapy like aggressive behaviors, repetitive behaviors, sleep issues, anxiety problems etc. They are only an adjunct to the above mentioned behavioral measures and not the mainstay.
Research suggests “the earlier an intervention is started, the more likely are positive and encouraging outcomes” BEGIN EARLY!