APRIL is autism awareness month. Many children despite being normal at birth show the signs of delay in social milestones.
#1: AUTISM IS A COMMON DISORDER OF CHILDREN
Autism is a common problem in children. It starts below 3 years of age. Parents often notice signs during the first three years of their child’s life. But signs of autism can be evident from very early age. Globally, autism is estimated to affect 24.8 million people as of 2015.About 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. ASD is more than 4 times more common among boys than among girls. The numbers of autistic children increasing day by day.
#2: WHY IT HAPPENS?
The actual cause is still unknown. Several genetic causes are suspected to be causative of autism. Air pollution, several drugs at the time of pregnancy, rubella infection to mother etc are other suspected causes.Autism affects information processing in the brain and how neurons and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.
#3: WHAT HAPPENS IN AUTISM?
Autism is a highly variable, whose symptoms first appear during infancy or childhood, and generally follows a steady course without complete improvement. Autistic people may be severely impaired in some respects but average, or even superior, in others. Overt symptoms gradually begin after the age of six months, become established by age two or three years and tend to continue through adulthood, although often in more muted form.
It is distinguished by a characteristic triad of symptoms: impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and repetitive behavior. Individual symptoms of autism occur in the general population and appear not to associate highly, without a sharp line separating pathologically severe from common traits.
Problem in communication: They have difficulty to communicate with others. It will be both verbal and non verbal. There will be abnormal delay in language milestones. Some children have abnormal facial expression.
Problem in social interaction: They have problems in handling emotions. They prefer to be alone. They don’t want relationship with others. They have no friends.
Problem in imagination and flexibility of thought: They have difficulty in thinking abstract terms. Stereotypic behavior, repeated behavior, limited activities, less interest. They become irritated if someone breaks their work schedule.
#4: AUTISTIC CHILDREN ARE NOT MAD
Unfortunately autism is a stigma in our country. Many parents and relatives think the child is mad. They are kept as outcasts from society. In school they are bullied by friends. Their parents also face huge stigma. The children are levelled as mad and inferior from other children. This disparity causes depression.
#5: AUTISM CAN BE PREVENTED
Although there’s currently no cure, studies have found that certain actions can help pregnant women prevent autism. Mothers should take preventative steps. Disparities in brain development begins as early as the second trimester for autistic children.
Reducing Exposure to Toxins: Scientific community has discovered evidence that environmental factors often play a role in developing autism. Study found that children born to mothers exposed to high pollution levels had twice the risk of ASD. That’s why the pregnant women should avoid pollution.
Maintaining a Nutritious Diet: Pregnant women can lower the risk for autism by eating a colorful, organic diet rich in green vegetables and fruits containing antioxidants. Many health experts support reducing “white foods,” including bread and sugar. The diet should include minimum 80 grams of protein. Folic acid, omega 3 fatty acid etc are also helpful.
Staying in Good Health: Regular check-ups with a family physician and obstetrician are important. Maternal health throughout pregnancy has a significant impact on unborn children. Mothers should be immunized against German measles (rubella) and get an influenza shot. Viral infections can interfere with the baby’s brain cells and alter neural connections. Taking all precautions to avoid gestational diabetes can help lower the risk for autism. If possible, pregnant women should avoid prescriptions, especially antidepressants.
#6: HOW TO TAKE CARE OF AN AUTISTIC CHILD?
- Child should be brought to community; No matter how exhausted you are, get your child out in the community. They always try to be aloof. So it’s parents duty to bring them to community and outer world.
- They need special school: Autistic children are much different from other children of their age group. So if they are taught in a common school they have more difficulty in adjusting with their friends. Sometimes constant bullying causes big problem to their self respect.
- Educate your friends and family: Educate friends and family how to interact with the child.
- Visit regularly to the therapist: Regularly visit the therapist for constant care and supervision.
- Get Neurology consultation at appropriate interval: Only therapy is not the solution. The child should get treatment too. Besides this many children have other neurological issues like epilepsy, development delay etc which is common in autistic children. Don’t stop prescribed medication suddenly.
- Most important thing is patience and time: Autism is a marathon, not a sprint. Patience is the greatest asset. Make rapport with your child. Support his/her strength. Keep healthy and hygienic.
#7: FAMOUS PERSON WITH AUTISM
Autism is not a disability. It’s a special ability. We have to support them and nurture them.
Please read and share
B.G. & Phelan, J.C. (2006) Stigma and its public health implications. Lancet. 2006 Feb 11;367(9509):528-9.
Kim, Y.S., Leventhal, B.L., Koh, Y-J, Fombonne, E., Laska, E., Lim, E-C, Cheon, K-A, Kim, S-J, Kim, Y-K, Lee, H., Song, D-H & Grinker, R.R. (2011) Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Total Population Sample. Am J Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;168(9):904-12