Here's everything else you need to know about Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a single disorder, rather it’s a spectrum of different disorders that share a core of symptoms. Every patient that suffers from ASD disorder will have some problems with empathy, social interaction, communication, and regulating behavior. The levels of disability and the combination of various symptoms can vary from one patient to another. Also, two patients who suffer from signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can look quite different when it comes to behaviors and abilities. Hence it is important to develop a tailored treatment and management program for each patient.
As a parent, you may hear many different terms that can apply to your child with autism, if they are diagnosed with ASD disorder. The terms will include high-functioning autism, atypical autism, and autism spectrum disorder, along with pervasive developmental disorder.
These terms can be overwhelming and confusing especially when doctors don’t explain the jargon to you. Ensure that you ask and clarify all your doubts with the doctor or psychiatrist to ensure that you as the parent are apprised of the condition of your child. It might also be advisable to get a second opinion on the diagnosis if you are unsure or uncomfortable with the doctor.
People with Autism can be characterized not only by these areas of challenge but also by significant areas of strength. A child with Autism has a certain set of abilities and aptitudes that should be identified and encouraged by the parents, therapists, and teachers. An autistic child may exhibit some of these skills –
- Good visual and spatial memory
- A methodical and organized way of doing things
- Ability to understand abstract concepts
- Excellence in the area of their interest
- Attention to detail
- Interest in languages (among children who can speak well)
Parents often confuse Autism with ADHD. Despite some similarities, ADHD is not a spectrum disorder. One major difference between the two is that children with ADHD don’t tend to lack socio-communicative skills. The exact reason for what causes Autism is unknown.
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
The usual signs of Autism show up when a child is between 2 and 3 years old, but medical experts think it begins at a much earlier stage when the brain starts to develop. Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder start during early childhood and it eventually branches out as problems when functioning in society; this includes in school or at work.
Children will show autism spectrum disorder symptoms within the first year. Some children will develop normally in the first year, and they will show symptoms between the second and third years.
The intensity of the signs and symptoms of ASD might vary from mild, to moderate to severe. A child with severe motor skills and cognitive impairment may also develop epilepsy.
However, a specific set of behaviors are an indicator of the condition. During the physiological and psychological developmental phase, the following traits can be looked out for. Children with autism may face difficulties in –
- Difficulties in forming meaningful sentences while talking.
- Difficulty communicating despite having an extensive vocabulary
- Repeating words or phrases they hear
- Repeating actions again and again
- May use sign language while speaking
- May or may not learn a language at all
- Inability to explain their feelings, emotions, and needs.
- Inability to interpret conversation, voice, facial expressions, and body language.
- Inability to have eye contact when someone is speaking.
Social interaction –
- At an early stage of infancy, they may not display any anticipatory posture or smile after being picked up by an adult.
- Difficulty in interacting with people and learning social skills
- Difficulty in making friends or not wanting any company, insisting on playing and being alone.
- Avoids eye contact
- Inability to understand the feelings or emotions of others around them, due to which they may not reciprocate with an appropriate response.
- Trouble adapting to routine changes
- May respond differently to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
- Difficulty in hearing
- Extremely sensitive to smell, touch, taste, sound, light, and color
- Sensitivity to certain types of food
- Uncomfortable with touch or physical contact
- Difficulty in following directions or instructions
- Shows unusual attachment to an object or a toy
- Unusual interest or obsession with specific activities
- Activities and play are generally rigid, repetitive, and monotonous
- Not afraid of a real dangerous situation, but fearful of harmless objects
- Sudden mood changes: bursts of laughing or crying without obvious reason.
- Hyperkinesis is a condition of excessive abnormal movements due to an increase in muscular activity. It is a common behavioral problem in a child with autism, and it may alternate with hyperactivity.
- Aggression and temper tantrums are prompted mostly by change and demands.
- Short attention span, poor ability to focus on a task
- Feeding and eating problems
Observing the symptoms that manifest themselves can help doctors prescribe an effective treatment plan for autism spectrum disorder. Lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of autism delays the parents’ ability to identify the problem at an early stage. As many other conditions can co-exist with Autism such as learning disability, motor difficulties, hyperactivity, seizures, and hearing or visual impairment. Complications with social interactions, communication, and behavior can lead to various other drawbacks such as –
- Problems in school and with successful learning
- Employment problems
- Inability to live independently
- Social isolation
- Stress within the family
- Victimization and being bullied
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Recent research and developments in neurological disorders studies suggest that there is no single cause for Autism. Given the complexity of the disorder and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there can be a wide range of factors that might cause damage to the central nervous system at an infant stage. Various combinations of genetic and environmental factors might trigger it.
Some of the suspected causes of autism spectrum disorder include –
- Having an immediate family member with an autism
- Genetic mutations
- Parents who have children late in life
- Fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders
- A pregnant woman who has conditions like diabetes and obesity or who drinks alcohol during pregnancy
- Low birth weight
- Metabolic imbalances
- Exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
- A history of viral infections
- Untreated conditions like rubella (German measles), or phenylketonuria, a metabolic disorder caused by the absence of an enzyme
- Fetal exposure to the medications valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)
Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Experts previously discussed many varieties of autism, such as autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disability not otherwise defined (PDD-NOS). However, they are now all referred to as "autism spectrum diseases."
If you hear some of the older labels still being used, you'll want to know what they mean:
This is a kind of autism that is on the milder end of the spectrum. A person with Asperger's syndrome may be quite brilliant and capable of managing their daily activities. They could be completely absorbed in issues that fascinate them and talk about them incessantly. However, they have a considerably more difficult time socially.
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS).
Most children with autism that was more severe than Asperger's syndrome were given this diagnosis.
Autistic disorder is a neurological condition that affects people. This older term falls between Asperger's and PDD-NOS on the autism spectrum. It comprises the same symptoms as before, but on a much more severe scale.
Disintegrative condition in children.
This was the most severe and uncommon segment of the spectrum. It defined youngsters who grow normally until they lose numerous social, verbal, and cognitive skills, generally between the ages of two and four. These youngsters frequently had a seizure problems as well.
Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
There is no single medical test for diagnosing ASD. A set of specific assessments and evaluations are required to confirm the condition. Some of the assessments include:
- Physical and Nervous system (Neurological) test – A neurological examination of sensory neuron and motor responses, especially reflexes, to determine whether the nervous system is impaired.
- Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) – The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) is a structured interview used for diagnosing autism, planning treatment, and distinguishing autism from other developmental disorders. This test helps to determine problems with language and communications, reciprocal social interactions and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behaviors and interests.
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) – ADOS is a standardized diagnostic test for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The test consists of a series of structured and semi-structured tasks that involve social interaction between the examiner and the patient.
- Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) –This assessment tool works by rating your child’s behavior, characteristics, and abilities against the expected developmental growth of a typical child. This test evaluates characteristics like an emotional response, relationship to people or objects, adaptation to change, fear and nervousness, etc.
- Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS) – GARS assists teachers, parents, and physicians in identifying ASD in individuals and estimating its severity. It is one of the most widely used instruments for the assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the world.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test (PDDST) – PDDST is a screening tool designed to identify ASD in children between 12 to 48 months old. Consisting of a 23-item questionnaire, it is designed to be used by the child’s parent or other main caregivers.
Your doctor may also recommend a combination of tests such as DNA testing for genetic diseases, behavioral evaluation, visual and audio tests to rule out any issues with vision and hearing unrelated to autism; occupational therapy screening, etc.
Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder
There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all standard autism treatment. Reputed autism centers in Bangalore treat autism to maximize the child’s functions, reduce their symptoms, and support consistent learning and development. There must be an early intervention during the preschool years because it can help build your child’s social, communication, behavioral, and functional skills.
Since there is a variety of school-based and home-based treatments available for autism spectrum disorder, you may feel overwhelmed. You can consult with your healthcare provider on which autism treatment in Bangalore is best for your child. If your child is diagnosed early, talk to a medical professional about creating an autism treatment strategy and build a team of experts who will help meet your child’s needs consistently and effectively.
The best autism treatment will formulate a plan that will depend on your child’s needs. For instance, speech therapy will enhance communication skills, occupational therapy will teach them how to go about their daily lifestyle, and physical therapy can enhance their movement and balance. They may also be assigned a psychologist who can recommend different methods to address any problematic behavior.
Even though no set medication can eradicate the core signs of autism, autism treatment in India caters to the specific need of the child, which can help control the symptoms. You have to notify and update your healthcare provider on the medication and supplements that your child is consuming, to avoid any side effects.
For proper ASD treatment, the doctor will first have to diagnose the exact symptoms your child is facing. Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative, especially during the preschool days, because they will help the child overcome their developmental delays. If you are worried that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder, seek out a clinical diagnosis and treatment plan at Cadabams which is equipped to provide the highest level of care and treatment.
The primary goals of treatment are to help the child improve their abilities to integrate into their academic careers, develop meaningful relationships, and increase the possibility of maintaining independent living as adults.
Children with autism can make significant progress with properly structured ASD treatment. What works for one child might not work for another. Tailored treatment for you or your child is what you need. There are two ways ASD can be treated:
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) – It is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. This analysis helps to understand how behavior works and how it gets affected by the external environment. This therapy helps to increase cognitive, social, behavioral, fine motor, play, and self-help skills. The child is taught to work on structured tasks and subtasks, ranging from simple to complex ones. The child is taught to learn and complete each task at a time. This method uses rewards to help the child learn and maintain desired behaviors and skills.
Type of ABA include:
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – It is a method of teaching that follows simplified and structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill in one go, the skill is broken down and “built up” using discrete trials that teach each step one at a time.
- Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) – EIBI uses the principles of behavior analysis to increase positive and useful behaviors and decrease unwanted behaviors such as tantrums, aggression, and self-injury. It is a highly structured approach for teaching children under five years of age.
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT) – Psychologists, Special education teachers, and Speech therapists widely use PRT to increase positive social behaviors and to provide relief from disruptive self-stimulatory behaviors. It is a play-based autism therapy that focuses on the child’s development instead of working on one specific behavior.
- Verbal Behaviour Intervention (VBI) – VBI teaches communication and language. This approach encourages people with autism to learn language by connecting words with their purposes. Rather than focusing on words as labels, it teaches why we use words and how they are useful in making requests and communicating ideas.
- Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication Handicapped Children Method (TEACCH) – TEACCH is an evidence-based service, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders. TEACCH provides clinical services such as diagnostic evaluations, parent training, social play, parent support groups, recreation groups, individual counseling for higher-functioning clients, and supported employment.
Medications for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can help with symptoms, like attention problems, depression, hyperactivity, insomnia, trouble focusing, or anxiety. Risperidone (Risperdal) is the only drug approved by the FDA for children with ASD. Some doctors also prescribe medicines like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications, or stimulants. Some other alternative treatments for managing autism may include:
- High-dose vitamins
- Chelation therapy, which helps flush metals from the body
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Melatonin to address sleep issues
ASD in itself can’t be cured, but the treatment methodology involves reducing the symptoms of ASD and improving the person’s ability to function. Treatments like speech therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder can also help in improving the social, communicational, functional, and behavioral skills of patients. Interventions or therapies are designed to reduce some of the developmental problems faced by a child with autism. Your doctor might include some therapies in your treatment plan –
- Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR) – This therapy is also called floortime as it focuses on how the child deals with sights, sounds, and smells. It also helps deal with the emotional and relational development of the parents or caregivers.
- Occupational Therapy – This therapy enables the child to live an independent life. It includes day-to-day skills like eating, dressing, bathing, and relating to people.
- Sensory Integration Therapy – Helps the child deal with sensory information like sights, sounds, and smells. It helps greatly when a child is bothered by certain sounds or does not like to be touched.
- Speech Therapy – It helps improve communication. With alternate methods like gestures, picture boards, etc., this therapy helps an autistic child to learn how to express his/her thoughts and ideas to others.
- Music Therapy – Singing, composition, and live music-making are used in this form of therapy. This type of intervention used with children and teens with ASD improves social behaviors, increases focus and attention, increases communication attempts like vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures, and vocabulary, reduces anxiety, and improves body awareness and coordination.
- Behavior and communication therapies – This treatment plan for autism spectrum disorder aims to address social, language, and behavioral problems through programs.
- Educational therapies – These programs help improve the interpersonal and communication skills of children.
- Family therapy – In this therapy for autism spectrum disorder, parents, and other family members are taught to engage in plays and mock scenarios with patients to help them learn social interaction.
Before opting for any therapy, treatment, or medications, do seek sound medical advice. You can also research the ASD treatment cost in India to explore all the options available as a parent and caregiver.
Rehabilitation could be necessary for situations where the individual is a threat to themselves or the ones they love. They might even be facing a complete breakdown in daily functioning.