Autism Spectrum Disorder

1 What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of closely related neurodevelopmental disorder that affects

  • social skills,
  • communication,
  • behavior of a child.

The symptom of the autism spectrum varies from person to person. These disorders may affect social, occupational, and many other skills.

Many disorders in this spectrum of disorder were earlier considered as separate conditions, including

  • autism,
  • Asperger’s syndrome,
  • childhood disintegrative disorder.

The wide range of symptoms seen in different individuals in referred to as spectrum.

Prevalence of this disorder seem to be increasing.

There is no cure for the condition, but early treatment of the condition can help in controlling the symptoms in a better way. 

autism

2 Symptoms

Autism spectrum disorder affects communication, social interaction, perception of a child and in some children the symptoms of the disorder appear early in childhood. Some other children have normal development during the first few months of life, but may suddenly show change in behavior.

These children may suddenly become aggressive or withdrawn, while some others may lose their language skills. Severity of the symptoms also vary from person to person.

Each child may have a unique mix of symptoms and its severity.

Some of the common symptoms in communication and social interaction include

  • Lack eye contact and facial expression
  • Do not respond to his/her name
  • Do not respond to affection or warmth shown towards them
  • Delayed speech development
  • Inability or failure to remember language skills learnt
  • Inability to start or continue a conversation
  • Robot-like speech or any other abnormal tone
  • Repetition of words and phrases
  • Inability to understand simple directions
  • Lack of expression or emotions
  • Being passive or aggressive during a social interaction

Child with ASD may have specific patterns in their behavior like

  • Repetitive movements like flapping of hands, rocking, spinning, or head-banging
  • Follows specific routines
  • Always on the move
  • Resistance to change
  • Odd movement patterns like walking on toes
  • Exaggerated body response
  • Sensitive to light, sound and touch
  • Not interested in imitative play
  • Abnormal focus on specific certain objects
  • Odd food preferences

Some children with this disorder have normal to high intelligence and grasp quickly. But they struggle to communicate and to apply the learning in normal situations.

Some children have high skills in specific areas like

  • music,
  • math,
  • art.

Children with mild symptoms may lead a normal life later. Others may have persistent difficulty in language and social skills.

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3 Causes

Multiple causes are implied in the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Genetics and environment play a role in ASD.

Many genes are considered to be associated with the spectrum. Genetic changes may make a child more prone to spectrum disorder.

Genes that affect brain development, or transmission of signals determine the severity of the symptoms. Environmental factors like viral infections and pollutants may also play a role in triggering the disorder.

Major risk factors for ASD are

  • family history,
  • other disorders,
  • preterm birth.

Boys are more likely to develop ASD when compared to girls.

4 Making a Diagnosis

There are no medical tests to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. Developmental delays observed during regular checkups is the first indication of ASD. 

Evaluation of child’s

  • social interactions,
  • communication skills,
  • behavior

provide important clues regarding the presence of this condition.

Speech and language test suitable for a particular developmental stage is also used in the diagnosis. Performance of the child in structured social and communication test is also evaluated to check for symptoms of ASD.

Criteria for diagnosis is given in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by American Psychiatric Association.

As per the criteria, the child must have problems in different regions.

  • Social and emotional issues like inability to initiate and continue a conversation, inability to share experiences, and failure to share emotions
  • Using nonverbal communication techniques in social interactions like lack of eye contact and difficulty in understanding body language
  • Difficulty in developing and maintaining relationships like problems in making friends or adjusting behavior according to the situation

The child will have at least two of the following behavior patterns to meet the criteria.

  • Repetitive movements like rocking, spinning, or repeating words and phrases
  • Strictly following a routine and patterns of verbal or non-verbal behavior
  • Detailed or focused interest on unusual objects
  • Lack of sensitivity or exaggerated sensitivity to sensory inputs

5 Treatment

There is no cure for Autism spectrum disorder and treatment strategies focus on reducing the symptoms and to support development and learning of the child.

Behavior and communication therapies help in treating social and behavioral issues of the child. It helps the child to learn new skills and to improve their social interactions. This helps them to survive well, although the symptoms are not cured.

Structured educational programs help the child with ASD to perform well. The strategic plan improves social interactions, communications skills, and behavior.

Family therapies are useful to teach the family methods of coping and ways to interact with the child for improving

  • behavioral problems,
  • social interactions,
  • communication.

Medications are recommended to improve the symptoms. Antidepressants help to control anxiety, while antipsychotic drugs are used to treat behavioral issues.

6 Prevention

There is no specific way to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Treatment helps to improve the language and social skills of the person. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies used for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  • Agaricus,
  • androctonus,
  • carcinosin,
  • cuprum metallicum,
  • helleborus,
  • saccharum officinalis,
  • and thuja.

In the treatment of the condition are also used

  • Acupuncture,
  • sensory therapies,
  • special diets,
  • creative therapies,
  • chelation therapy

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Autism spectrum disorder.

Having a team of specialists and professionals to make important decision regarding the treatment aspects.

Seek out other families with child having ASD.

Support groups are also helpful in discussing treatment options and experiences.

Learning about the disorder and diligently keeping records of the visits helps to monitor the improvement. 

9 Risk and Complications

Autism spectrum disorder may lead to several complications like:

  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,
  • epilepsy,
  • dyspraxia,
  • obsessive compulsive disorder,
  • depression. 
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