Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism is the developmental disability found in children.
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition in which the child’s ability to communicate and interact is impaired. Spectrum in autism spectrum disorder refers to wide range of symptoms and severity. Availing treatment at the early stage of autism is considered very helpful for the health and development of the affected.
There is no single cause for autism spectrum disorder. In some children, it may occur due to genetic problems and in some it may be environmental factors. The genetic disorder viz. Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome may cause autism.
Autism spectrum disorder is seen in children between 18 months and 3 years of age. Parents notice that, children fail to maintain eye contact, do not respond to his/her name or do not engage in imaginative play. Significantly, the symptoms of autism are not evident till the child reaches school age when the social and communication problems are clearly seen.
RISKS & COMPLICATIONS
Children of certain categories / health conditions are at the risk of autism spectrum syndrome. Boys are more prone to autism than girls. The family history of autism, premature babies and children born to older parents are also at greater risk of autism.
TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS
Any changes in the child’s social behaviour and communication should be noticed by parents or caretakers and referred to child psychologist, paediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician. The specialist doctor may observe the child’s social interactions, communication skills and behaviour. In some cases, the specialist doctor may recommend for genetic testing to identify the presence of fragile X syndrome. The consultant psychologist may advice on steps to develop social and language skills in the child diagnosed of autism. The doctor also looks for other medical disorders viz. epilepsy, sleep disorders and stomach problems.
Treatment for autism spectrum syndrome aims to maximize the child’s social and communication capabilities. The treatment options may include behaviour and communication therapies, educational therapies, family therapies and medications.