What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong disorder that emerges in the first year or two of life. It consists of disturbances in the following areas:

  1. Developmental rates and the sequence of motor, social-adaptive and cognitive skills.
  2. Reaction towards sensory inputs – hyper and hypo sensitivity in audition, vision, tactile stimulation, motor, olfactory and taste, including self-stimulatory behaviours.
  3. Speech and Language, cognition, and nonverbal communication, including mutism, echolalia, and difficulty with abstract terms.
  4. Capacity to appropriately relate to people, events and objects, including lack of social behaviours, affection and appropriate play.

Autism is normally the common name for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is the collective term for individuals affected in the aforementioned areas. Due to the diverse symptoms the word spectrum is used. Another term often heard is Pervasive Developmental Disorder ( PDD). This refers to the milder form of Autism while ASD is the more severe form.

PDD – NOS refers to Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Nothing Otherwise Specified which again is a mild form of this developmental disorder. Autism is found in males four times more frequently than in females and affects 1 in 500 children.

In general, the age of detection of ASD varies with severity and developmental delays, especially in communication and social interaction. Usually this disorder is identified after 18 months of age.

Infants with ASD have been described as either lethargic, preferring solitude and making few demands, or highly irritable, with sleeping problems and screaming and crying, as well as more frequent tantrums, repetitive movements and ritualistic play, extreme reactions to certain stimuli, joint attention and communication difficulties, including a lack of gestures and lack of pretend and social play, according to research.

What are the symptoms of Autism?

Since autism is a developmental disorder its behavioural manifestations vary with age ability. Its core features, present in different forms, at all stages of development and at all levels of ability, are:

  1. Social interaction
  2. Communication
  3. Imagination/Repetitive Restricted Behaviours and Interests.

Deficit in communication involving delay in language development is one of the core features of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although the pattern of communication and language development is quite variable across individuals with autism, early life symptoms in communication are commonly seen during the child’s second year of life.

The variance in expressive/spoken language features seen across Autism ranges from no productive expressive language to verbal fluency.  Some studies reveal that approximately 80-90% of autistic children develop some functional speech by the age of 9 years.

Check if your child has a speech delay: Get a screening test now

15 Early Signs of Autism

Early intervention improves outcomes in young children with autism.  Despite increased awareness, many children are not diagnosed with autism until age four or more! Detecting autism as early as possible is essential. Autism is diagnosed by observing a child’s behaviour and looking for specific symptoms.

The following are 15 early signs autism/Red Flags to identify autism. If a child is not

  1. Babbling
  2. Pointing
  3. Showing objects to caregivers
  4. Able to do gestures
  5. Able to share enjoyment
  6. Doing movements or actions properly (Repetitive movements or actions)
  7. Maintaining eye contact
  8. Following an adult’s pointed finger
  9. Paying more attention to objects than people
  10. Playing with toys
  11. Copying actions or sounds
  12. Responding to his or her name when called
  13. Engaged in pretend play
  14. Responding emotionally
  15. Imitating others behaviours

Contact a Speech Language Therapist if you suspect any of the aforementioned difficulties with your child.

What causes Autism?

Autism has previously been connected to emotional, physical, environmental, and health-related deficits. ASD was thought to be caused by ‘cold mothers’ who failed to provide their babies with a healthy caring and emotionally sound environment. But sufficient research has suggested that the main factor that causes Autism is Biological preponderance.

  • Biological Factors

Approximately 65 % of individuals with ASD have abnormal brain patterns. The incidence of autism is higher when accompanied by prenatal complications, Fraglie X syndrome , Ritt syndrome and a family history of autism.

  • ASD is often accompanied by mental retardation and seizures.
  • High levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and natural opiate.
  • Abnormal development of celrebellum ( part of the brain that regulates sensations)
  • Multi focal disorders of the brain
  • Impairment of neural subcortical structures
  • Impairment in cortical development

Genetic link . Research is still on. It is opined that there might be several genes involved which express autism.

To know more related to autism : Related video

  • Social- Environmental Factors

Early studies indicated that parents who didn’t interact appropriately with their children caused autism. But no basis has been found for this conclusion.

  • Processing Factors
  1. Children with ASD have problems in processing information and analysing it.
  2. When they attend, they become fixated on one feature, usually some insignificant tiny details.
  3. Difficulties in discrimination.

All these issues precipitate the language deficit symptoms including inability to identify the relevant contextual information, echolalia and poor social skills

What to do When Your Child gets an Autism Diagnosis

When Your Child gets an Autism Diagnosis
  • When a professional informs you that your child has autism spectrum disorder, it may be a new term to you. At this moment as a parent, you may be feeling somewhat confused.
  • Remember this, however: Autism will never go away; it is an integral part of your child’s personality, and accepting your child’s autism is the first crucial step.
  • After all, your child has only been given a label, and this does not make them any different than they have always been.
  • You may now be wanting to know what steps to take next. Read on to find out!

Success stories of people with Autism

Explore
Autism Acceptance Symbol 
Autism Acceptance Symbol 
  • Explore this new world of the autistic mind.
  • Some very good resources for learning about autism from autistic people are available on the internet, such as the guide to the autistic mind by Neuroclastic and the website of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
  • Social media also provides valuable opportunities to learn tips for working with your autistic child from autistic adults across the world.
LearnLearning different therapies
  • Learn about the different therapies. Many people will recommend different interventions-speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and so many more.
  • Remember that the goal of any therapy should not be to ‘fix’ your child or make them ‘normal’ but to help them make their life easier.
  • You can use your informed judgment to decide what will truly help your child.

 

When Your Child gets an Autism Diagnosis

Inquire

techniques at home

  • When working with any therapist, ask them about the goals and techniques they are using.
  • You are always your child’s first speech therapist, occupational therapist, special educator, and everything else, so you have the right to know.
  • If what they are doing works during the sessions, implement the same techniques at home as well-your child’s therapists will be happy to help you find ways to do this. Read more about ways to engage your child at home here.
Presume competence
  • Believe in your child. All children communicate, learn, and grow.
  • Your child’s natural form of communication and method of learning is very valid, and these will help your child grow their skills as they progress in life.
  • Many autistic people will also greatly benefit from using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
AAC board example 
AAC board example 
  • This gives them a way to communicate their thoughts and feelings
  • effectively if and when spoken language is too difficult. Read more about AAC for autistic children here.
Advocate
  • Advocate for your child.
  • You are the strongest support your child has, and they need this pillar of support.
  • Modeling this now will help them learn to stand up for themselves as they grow older, which is an invaluable life skill.

 

Autism Series I: What to Know About ‘Screening’ a Child for Autism

Autism is a complex condition/disorder wherein the individual or child shows challenges in the areas of social skills, communication skills and behaviors. The disorder which falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has a range of symptoms which may vary from child to child.

For parents of young children, knowing when to screen for possibility of Autism is important. However, few of the frequent questions raised by parents about screening include- “When do we need to screen a child for Autism?” ; “How is screening done?” ; “Who conducts it?”; and “Why is it important?”.  This article further describes the responses.

Screening for Autism gives an impression of whether a child’s development indicates ‘red flags’ (i.e. challenges or skills that can be of concern) and whether the child needs to be seen for further detailed assessments.  The screening assessment is different from a diagnostic one.

To read books related to Autism

When do we need to screen the child? 

If it is noted that the child is persistently showing difference (including a delay) in behavior/s when compared to his / her typically developing peers, it becomes essential to screen the child as soon as possible. This will help understand whether the child needs further detailed assessments or not.

What is ABA for Autism?

Applied Behavior Analysis helps to modify behaviors with specific methods. It improves social skills, speech skills, and self-care in Autistics. Helps them in dealing with anger, better attention, and have better life skills.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) works on two major principles:
  1. Our behavior is directed by events in our life.
  2. Behavior that is followed by positive rewards will repeat.

ABA uses these principles to assist children with ASD to learn new and appropriate behavior. For example, if a child points to a toy they want, the child’s parents might follow this up with a positive reward like giving the child the toy. This makes it more likely that the child will repeat the action in the future.

To see more related blogs related to Autism:

Speech Language Therapy for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder during COVID-19

Speech-Language Therapy for Kids, Are you worried that your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is missing out on his Speech-Language Therapy sessions during the pandemic? Leave all your worries behind! Read the blog to know more about some activities that you can do at home to stimulate speech and language skills.

Some COMMON MYTHS of children learning to talk

What are the treatment options for children with Autism?

Treatment or intervention of Autism is a very extensive comprehensive program which involves a host of professionals and the child’s family. The following are some key points to consider when working with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Speech Language Therapy: Important for developing the necessary communication and speech skills in children with Autism

Various behavioural therapies like Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT), PRT (Pivotal Response Treatment), Verbal Behaviour are all tried and tested ways to improve the child’s communication, cognitive and social skills. Such therapies are provided by certified therapists and also by some Psychologists.

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