What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects the development of physical, emotional, and social skills in an individual. People affected with the condition usually display difficulty in communicating and socializing with others and often keep to themselves.
Symptoms of Autism
Common symptoms of autism include:
- A lack of eye-contact
- Interest only in a few select topics
- Unnecessary repetition of tasks, words, or phrases
- Being highly sensitive to certain visual stimuli, sounds, or smells
- Difficulty paying attention
- Difficulty looking at things being pointed at
- Preferring to stay away from physical contact and acts of affection like cuddling
- Trouble understanding others or having a meaningful conversation
- Using a robotic or singsong voice while talking
- Trouble adapting to changes in routine
- Experiencing seizures after adolescence (in rare cases)
Risk factors for Autism
Probable risk factors include:
- Having an immediate family member with an autism
- Genetic mutations
- Being born to older parents
- Low birth weight
- Metabolic imbalances
- Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
- History of viral infections
- Exposure to valproic acid or thalidomide
Diagnosis of Autism
Autism may be suspected based on signs and symptoms exhibited, and if the child is not meeting normal growth and development milestones for their age. Certain tests may be conducted to evaluate cognitive ability as well as language and social skills to confirm a diagnosis of autism.
Treatments for Autism
Autism treatment methods are unique for each child and based on their individual symptoms. The goal of treatment is to reduce or manage symptoms while improving their learning and development.
Behavior and Communication Treatments
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): This therapy is based on using rewards to reinforce positive behaviors in children. It may include breaking down the desired behavior into simple steps, focusing on important areas of child development like self-management, appropriate social behavior, and verbal skills.
Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based Model (DIR): Also known as “floor time”, this therapy involves getting on the floor to play with your child and engaging in activities the child likes to do. This supports your child’s emotional and intellectual development and improves communication skills.
Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH): This therapy uses a variety of visuals to guide your child to do normal activities and improves intellectual development. The information is provided in a step-by-step manner so the child can learn new skills easily.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): This is also a therapy that uses the visual medium to guide your child. In this method, special symbols are used to communicate with the child, teaching them the meaning and use of each of these symbols through practice. Over time, your child develops communication skills using these special symbols.
Occupational Therapy: This method focuses on the mental and physical development of your child. Your child develops the skill to conduct various day-to-day activities on their own and live as independently as they can.
Sensory Integration Therapy: This therapy focuses on the sensory skills of your child and their response to various stimuli in the environment. For example, the doctor may see if certain applications of light or sound upset your child, and if so, helps them manage the problem.
Medical marijuana is recommended in the management of this condition as it is shown to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Currently, there are no drugs available in the market to cure the disorder. However, a few medicines are available to help your child manage the various symptoms associated with the disorder, such as depression, seizures, and insomnia.