Autism and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both the general terms used for a group of disorders of brain development. ASD is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people (Autism Spectrum Australia, 2014). The word spectrum denotes a range of difficulties that people with ASD experience and the degree to which it may be affected. While some may be able to lead relatively normal lives, others may have an accompanying learning disability and require continued specialist support (Autism Spectrum Australia, 2014).
People on Autism spectrum may have the following:
• Unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects.
• Sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand.
• Intellectual impairments or learning difficulties.
Red Flags that indicate your child may be at risk of Autism (Autism Speaks, 2014):
• Absence of big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months and thereafter.
• Absence of back and forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months.
• Absence of back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles or any other facial expression by 9 months.
• No babbling by 12 months.
• Absence of words by 16th month.
• No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including, imitating or repeating) by 24th months.
• Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
What causes Autism?
First and foremost, as we know that is no single cause that leads to autism just as there are many types of autism. It is a combination of various factors, most important of them being a rare gene change or mutation associated with autism (Autism Speaks, 2014). There are certain cases where the chances of the baby are at a high risk of exposure to autism:
• In the case of genetic pre-disposition to autism, a number of non-genetic or environmental factors stresses to further increase the child’s risk for autism.
• Maternal illness during pregnancy
• Advanced parental age at time of conception
• Certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain.
• Research also proves that the ladies having good amount of folic acid and vitamin including a rich and healthy diet are at a less risk of having baby’s with autism. Hence it is essential to have a check on the vitamins, folic acid levels not only during pregnancy but before and after as well.
Management of Autism:
Treatment strategies for autistic children and parenting tips:
• Don’t wait for diagnosis
• Best thing you can do is to start the treatment right away (with physiotherapy, speech therapy and many more)
• As parents learn about autism
• Become an expert on your child
• Accept your child as he/she is
• Don’t give up
While helping Children with Autism:
• Be consistent (with therapists, schools, homes)
• Stick to a schedule (as children with autism tend to do best when they have a strong schedule or daily routine)
• Reward good behaviour
• Create a home safety zone
Find nonverbal ways to connect:
• Look for nonverbal cues (making gestures and body language)
• Figure out the need behind the tantrum (get to know why your child is feeling ignored or left out , a result of which is he/she throwing tantrums)
• Make time for fun
• Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities.
Create a personalized autism treatment plan:
• Focus on your child’s strengths
• Know your child’s weaknesses
• What are the behaviour causing most problems
• What important skill is your child lacking
• How does a child learn best (through listening, seeing, doing )
Finding help and support:
• Approach autism support groups
• Contact special schools where your child does not feel left out.
• Individual, marital and family counselling.