Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also known as Autism, is a medical term that refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges in social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication. It describes a broad group of neurodevelopmental conditions. ASD is not endemic to a particular country, it is not racial and does not respect ethnicity or economic background – it is a condition that affects people around the world
The condition is mostly influenced by a combination of several genetic and environmental factors. Each person with autism possesses a distinct set of strengths and challenges thus no two persons with autism have exactly the same strengths and or challenges. Because it is a spectrum disorder, the ways in which people with autism learn, think and showcase problem-solving skills can vary, ranging from highly skilled to severely challenged.
Due to this variation in the spectrum, somepeople with ASD who are within the severely challenged extreme may require serious support in their daily lives, while others in the middle range would need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently- for those who fall within the highly skilled range.
According to the results from research on the condition, several factors may influence the development of autism, and most often, autism is accompanied by sensory sensitivities and various medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, irregular sleep patterns as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Signs of autism usually begin to manifest at age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier (if the parents pay attention to the developmental stages) and quite often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months while in some cases the symptoms can appear later on. Research has shown that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
Early symptoms may include:
Problems with communication and social interaction some of which are mentioned below
-Delay in language or social development.
– Not maintaining eye contact at birth
-Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities
-Hyperlexia (reading beyond what is expected of their age)
-Talkiing in a rather unusual tone (High-pitched and sing-songy or Robotic and flat)
-Inability to show facial expressions (at 9 months)
-Not responding to their name (at 9months)
-Having trouble expressing their feelings or understanding those of others starting at 36 months amongst other symptoms.
These communication and social interaction problems can persist till adulthood.
Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities some of which are mentioned below
– Repetitive movements, like rocking, flapping their arms, spinning, or running back and forth
– Repeating words or phrases they hear someone say over and over again
-Exceptional abilities, in musical or memory capabilities
Some people with ASD might experience additional symptoms, including:
-Delayed movement, language and cognitive skills
-Gastrstrointestinal symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea
-High or low levels of fear than expected
-Very short attention span
-Unusual eating habits and sleep patterns.
What are the different types of autism?
The most recent output on the types of ASD is contained in the fifth Edition (DSM-5) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and released in 2013. Clinicians use this manual to diagnose a variety of psychiatric disorders.
According to the DSM-5, there are five different ASD subtypes. They are:
– With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
– Wiith or without accompanying language impairment
– Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor
– Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
Treatment of ASD
ASD can be cured (quite rare) depending on the level tge individual is on the spectrum.
The best method is using various behavioural therapies based on Applied Behavioural Analysis all putting into consideration the needs, strengths and weakness of the autistic individual.
If your ward keeps having emotional breakouts, be calm, empathetic and always show an accepting environment. Patience is important as it takes quite some time to get the desired responses with autistic patients.
For those with various medical emergencies, endeavor to have appropriate medications and administer them as at when due. Go for first aid trainings to know what appropriate first aid actions can be taken in cases of emergency.
Most importantly, do not loose hope and feel all glum, with all the right actions and decisions changes in the positive will be recorded.