What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition in which an individual’s social interaction, communication, interests and behavior becomes affected. There are many types of autism, childhood autism and also Asperger syndrome behavior are the most common ones. To be put in simpler words, ASD usually begins in childhood, and the affected child is behaviorally and mentally different compared to the normal children. It is estimated that in UK, that one in every 100 people has ASD. There are cases when some parents did not realize that their child had ASD. Some autistic children would show absolutely normal development, just like the other kids out there. Some may seem a little slow in response. While the rest might seem like a little hyperactive. ASD is usually noticeable at the second year of a child’s life. Before learning what causes Autism spectrum disorder, let me first explain to you the symptoms of ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms may vary depending on the type of autism they are having. However, children with severe symptoms and learning difficulties are likely to need extra care and assistance to live independently. Here are the most common symptoms of autism (you may also use them as an autism symptoms checklist) :
- Unusual behaviors
- Loss of language / Delayed language development
- Problems to interact or respond
- Inability to start a conversation
- Repetitive patterns of thought or movements ( tapping and twisting hands, and they become upset when their routine is interrupted)
- Unable to produce appropriate emotions (crying when they are supposed to be happy, or laughing all of sudden)
- Hyperactive ( only some autistic children are hyperactive)
- Difficulty to sleep
Autism Spectrum Disorder Causes
What exactly causes ASD is unknown, but scientists think that several complex genetic and environmental factors may equally contribute. Following are the conditions that may trigger ASD :
- Genetic factors
The likeliness of a child to develop ASD is much higher when the other twin, or maybe a sibling has ASD. If a sibling has ASD, the chances of the other sibling to develop ASD are 35 times higher. However, most people with ASD have no reported family history of autism. So it does not really run in the family. It is just the matter of mutations of the genes. Mutation of genes can be both helpful and harmful, and sometimes does not trigger any effect.
- Environmental factors
Environment factor means anything that is outside the body that may affect the halth. That includes the air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, the food we eat and the things our body comes in contact with. In this case, the medical conditions of the family members, parental age, complications during birth or pregnancy, medications consumed by the affected child, exposure to toxins and many more is taken into count.
How To Treat Autism Spectrum Disorder?
There is no proven cure yet for ASD. Fortunately, you can reduce the symptoms of ASD in a child early by using school-based programmes, behavioral programmes (often referred as interventions), psychological therapies and by getting proper medical care. Since there are many high functioning autism interventional programmes available, it can be hard to judge which one will work the best for your child. Some types of intervention will require high commitments from the parents emotionally and financially. An intervention would focus on the development of the child’s following skills :
- Communication skills – ability of the child to start conversation, or continue the conversation.
- Social interaction skills – ability to understand other people’s feelings and respond to them.
- Cognitive skills – encouraging imaginative play and interests to try something new.
- Academic skills – the basic skills a child need to develop in education wise, such as writing, reading and calculating.
Here are few programmes that help in the social and mental development of an autistic child:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
ABA involves breaking down skills (such as communication and cognitive skills) into small tasks for the children to do. These tasks will be taught in a highly structured way. It also involves rewarding and reinforcing positive behaviors while discouraging the inappropriate behavior. ABA sessions can be carried out at home, although most of the times it is delivered in schools and nurseries.
- Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
This is an educational intervention that emphasizes on learning by using visual prompts. This is a great idea to teach them as the research has found that autistic children often respond better to visually presented information. TEACCH is delivered in special day care centres, but it is encouraged to continue this intervention programme at home.
- Speech and Language Therapy (SLT)
This is a therapy designed to improve the language skills of an autistic child. Techniques such as visual aids, stories and toys will be used to improve their communication skills. It eventually drives them to interact with each other.
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
PECS emphasizes on picture symbols, allowing them to interact and communicate more effectively. This programme teaches the children to communicate with adults by giving them cards that has pictures on them. Over time, the children will be taught more difficult skills, such as making whole sentences by using the pictures given to them.
Medications will be given to help treat the related symptoms of ASD such as :
- Sleeping difficulty
- Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
- Aggressive behavior (tantrums and self-harming)
How To Communicate With An Autistic Child?
Here’s a video by PhilCommander, a parent to an autistic child to guide you on the right way to speak to an autistic child.
These are all the information regarding autism that every parent should know and remember. Always watch the behavior of your children. Should you notice them behaving differently, take them to the doctor, who will recommend few tests to determine whether or not your child is autistic. Remember that every child with autism spectrum disorder is special, and may be different from each other. They are usually very intelligent too. Also make sure they are taught the proper skills at present so they could be independent as they grow up. If there are any other treatments or information regarding autism that you know, do share them.