Autism is a neurological developmental and behavioural disorder impacting the communication and social interaction skills. Many show very restricted interest bordering on obsession and repetitive behaviour known as stereotype behaviour. The most visible signs of ASD tend to appear between the ages of 2 to 3 years though in some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. However, the timing and severity of autism’s first symptoms vary widely.
The symptoms range from mild to severe and have now been grouped under “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” by DSM-5. The word “spectrum” has been added to denote the wide gamut of symptoms it encompasses.
Autism Spectrum Disorder along with Asperger’s syndrome, Childhood Disintegration disorder, Pervasive Developmental Delay (not otherwise specified) are commonly known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Rett’s syndrome.
Though the exact cause for autism is not known certain factors are suspected to play a role which include-
Though the signs and symptoms of autism vary individual to individual and may differ in its intensity and occurrence however some red flags which if present you may suspect the child is autistic. These are:
Social Signs- an ASD child typically appears to be a shy, introvert child.
Communication- Speech and communication difficulties are one of the most important sign of ASD.
Repetitive behaviour- Another important sign of autism is repetitive or stereotypic behaviour known as Stimming.
As per DSM-V ASD or Pervasive Developmental disorder encompasses :
Asperger’s Syndrome- It is a milder form of autism and was first described by a pediatrician Dr.Hans Asperger in 1944. In this condition speech development is usually normal and the child may have normal intelligence but
Childhood disintegration disorder- It is also known as Heller’s syndrome. It is a relatively rare disorder where the child may exhibit normal development till he is 2 to 3 years and then gradually loses his language, social and motor skills before the age of ten. Initially few behavioural changes can be noticed like
Pervasive Developmental Delay (not otherwise specified) also known as Atypical Autism and is used when an individual displays autistic behavior and poor interactive skills but may not meet the complete criteria of Autism are labeled under this group and is also known as sub-threshold autism or atypical autism. There is no set pattern of symptoms but many children exhibit symptoms like-
Rett Syndrome- is a brain disorder affecting mostly girls by six months of age and is relatively rare. It is characterized by-
Diagnosis- There is no single diagnostic tests for autism. It is based on analysis and assessment of a child’s behaviour pattern and development by trained doctors or psychologists. If a child shows signs suspected of Autism then the child is assessed on various scales of Autism like Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Various questionnaires are devised to ascertain the child’s social, communicative and cognitive skills. Generally, many parents ignore early signs of autistic behaviour as general mood swings, or delayed mile stones and approaches the doctor much later. Early evaluation and diagnosis helps to normalize the child and prognosis is much better compared to late diagnosis.
Treatment- Unfortunately there is no treatment for autism in conventional methods. It can be controlled by counseling, behavioural corrections, and good diet and vitamin supplements. Medicines are given to associated symptoms like sleep disturbances, seizures, etc.
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