Autism Spectrum Disorder affects all races, nationalities, religions, and gender. As per a recent record, autism now affects 1 in 68 children, and it is one of the fast-growing neurodevelopmental disorders for children in the United States. It is more common than childhood diabetes and childhood cancer combined.
As a parent, we always want our child to be safe and healthy. But if something is bothering you lately, and you’re worried that your child might have autism, please be enlightened by this reading. Autism has no known cure as of the moment, but early diagnosis and intervention are essential for the child to live a more productive life.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
For parents to know how to detect and deal with a child with autism, it is important to understand what happens in children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism is a brain development disorder that causes significant challenges in a child regarding their social, behavioral, and communication skills. Under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder are childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder.
Children with autism do not have physical traits that set them apart from other children. What sets them apart is the way they behave, interact, communicate, and learn. Autism may range from a child being so gifted at a certain aspect (music or school) to severely challenged. Who are the ones who can notice if a child has signs of autism? It is the parents and school teachers.
What Are the Three Major Symptoms of Autism?
Since Autism Spectrum Disorder is a group of complex developmental disorders, the symptoms may vary. The range of symptoms will depend on their age and how autism has affected their growth and brain development. Do all children with autism spectrum disorder have the same symptoms? NO.
For parents and school teachers to detect autism, here are three major areas to look out for: impaired social skills, communication, and repetitive behaviors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, when a child display at least two out of the three impairment in these areas, they will need further assessment for the diagnosis of autism.
- Social Impairment: Children with autism may have difficulties in social communication and interaction. Children with autism may find it hard to communicate with children of their age, have awkward social skills, difficulty making friends, unable to express their emotions, unable to interpret other people’s feelings, find it hard to play with other children, or exhibit fewer non-verbal cues.
- Communication Difficulties: A child with autism may have different verbal abilities ranging from no speech, awkward speaking, use of inappropriate words, or fluent speech. Some children with autism spectrum disorder cannot maintain eye contact, delayed language skills, and may have irrelevant answers to questions.
- Repetitive Behaviors: Children with ASD may have repetitive and unusual behaviors like twirling, flapping of arms, rocking their body, pacing back and forth, or spinning. This may also involve obsessive fixation on a certain object or particular topic.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Autism?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, autism spectrum disorder has no known cause. However, risk factors like genetics, environmental factors, and pregnancy may contribute to ASD in children.
- Genetics: One of the major risk factors of developing autism spectrum disorder is a family history of the disorder. Autism may also be linked to genetic disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome or Rett Syndrome.
- Environmental Factors: There are theories that associate environmental factors such as medications, air pollutants, or viral infections, that may contribute to a child’s development of autism. Further studies are needed to back up this claim.
- Pregnancy Complications: It is yet to be proven if preterm babies and older maternal age puts a child at greater risk of autism spectrum disorder.
How Is Autism Diagnosed?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children is diagnosed by observing the child’s behavior, social and communication skills. There are no medical tests or blood tests to confirm the presence of autism. Usually, the symptoms of autism appear during early childhood, from 2-3 years old.
How important is it to be diagnosed early for autism spectrum disorder? Studies show that early diagnosis is the key to a better quality of life for children with ASD. This is what parents and school teachers must be aware of because they are the ones who can monitor a child’s behavior.
Can Autism Be Prevented?
Unfortunately, autism spectrum disorder could not be prevented. There are no established studies on its prevention since it has no known cause. People with ASD may have to deal with the disorder for life. The good news is, some interventions can help manage the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder so they may learn how to function well in society and live independently.
How Is Autism Treated?
There is no known cure for autism spectrum disorder since it has no known cause. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for people with autism. You can expect that the treatment will be individualized care depending on the child’s age and range of symptoms.
This may not be easy to accept, especially for parents that are just receiving this news. Don’t’ worry. There are many promising results when kids with autism undergo therapy and counseling from mental health professionals. It doesn’t matter if they are children or adolescents, what matters is prompt management. Therapy can help with the management of autism spectrum disorder, and the earlier, the better.
What Are the Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common therapy used for people with autism spectrum disorder is Applied Behavior Analysis. The therapy encourages good behaviors and discourages bad behaviors. The child is taught how to play, communicate and behave through a scientific approach.
In addition to Applied Behavior Analysis, family therapy is also suggested. Parents, siblings, or primary caregivers should have the knowledge on how to cope and how to approach the care of children with ASD.
If you’re not sure how to approach the care of children with ASD, it is best to consult a mental health professional. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that it may be hard for you to set an appointment at a clinic. There are many ways like Telehealth Counseling where you can seek expert advice from a mental health professional from the comfort of your home.