Autism is a neuro developmental disorder which is now increasingly being recognized in India. The disease frequency in US has been reported to be 1 in 100 children and in India around 1 in 10,000 children might be affected, with prevalence being more in males. It encompasses a range of disorders which are grouped together and hence referred to as Autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may vary in severity from one kid to another.
The disease manifest as triad of:
- Impaired social interaction
- Impairment of verbal ( spoken) and non verbal ( unspoken) communication
- Restricted, repetitive pattern of behavior with too much adherence to routines and restricted interests.
For Autistic children the world is different:
Children with autism perceive the things around them in a different way as compared to other children of their age. Most of the autistic children manifest symptoms by age of 2-3 years, however presentation can be slightly delayed due to lack of expert diagnosis. They may speak few words in initial years and then slowly may become silent or develop language at a slower pace as compared to siblings. Otherwise, they may speak only single words, repeat few selected phrases or might use some words which may seem odd for that particular situation. They also have difficulty expressing their needs even to their closed ones.
Absent social smile, delayed language, decrease response to name, abnormal eye contact are few of symptoms which can be present at early stages. The other features are staying aloof or silent, lack of imitation, difficulty in engaging in social interactions, abnormal social play. Resistance to change, overreact or negligible reactivity to any stimulus in nearby environment like certain sound, smell and taste are also aspects to be noted. They may respond differently to feelings of anger, love, affection shown by people around them.
Don’t label them as mentally retarded or hyperactive:
Most children with autism are wrongly labeled as mentally retarded or hyperactive. With increasing awareness and revised guidelines, children who were initially thought to “slow” are being evaluated and an appropriate diagnosis can be made, if they meet the diagnostic criteria. Some of these children may develop seizures, hence detailed neurologic evaluation is required for treatment. Specific medications depending on the symptoms, along with focused learning therapies like Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children ( TEACH), behavioral and environment modification are different options available for treatment.
Opt for the right care:
Most important is for people to understand these symptoms and take expert neurological opinion rather than delaying the diagnosis thinking that child will catch up with siblings, as studies have shown that early intervention can reduce disability and helps in improving IQ and language.