Understanding Autism and Recognizing Signs for Timely Intervention
by Neerja Anand
On 24 September, 2021
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is one of the most widely prevalent development disorders in the world. As per the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children is on the spectrum. ASD covers a wide range of conditions that might present itself in each person in varying degrees of severity making each person unique with specific needs and support. While some on the spectrum are able to carve out independent lives for themselves, there are those who need lifelong care & support on account of the severity of their impairments / disabilities. Evidence-based therapies / treatments can help with a range of skills such as communication, life and social skills, resulting in a positive outlook for the person with ASD and their family / caregivers.
People with ASD often have other medical conditions, such as epilepsy, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as maladaptive behaviors such as destruction and self-injury. As with all issues related to being on a broad range spectrum, there are different levels of intellectual functioning in people with ASD as well from severe impairment to intellectually superior. It is believed that a broad range of factors can result in a child having ASD, such as environmental and genetic factors.
The signs to look out for are:
Early signs can be noticed in infants in the age group of 6 – 17 months. If the baby does not respond to people around them, exhibits any form of language delay as well as fixates on an object all the time, the baby could be showing early signs of being on the spectrum. Older babies/toddlers around 2 years or more do not respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention, or spend time in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. Playing with toys such as lining them up in rows etc are signs for a family member or relative to look out for.
Communication – Each person being unique demonstrates their own set of symptoms with some able to speak well. While others may not speak at all or only very little. Many children on the spectrum do not speak at all. They also use language in unusual ways. Some say only one word at a time. Others repeat the same words or phrases over and over.
Social Skills –These skills which everyone takes for granted on a daily basis is lacking in those with ASD. They may not respond to their name by 12 months, tend to play on their own, avoid eye contact, and avoid socializing, inappropriate facial expressions or unease with physical contact.
Unusual interests and behavior - Children with ASD may have unusual interests or behaviors. These include lining up toys, playing with toys, in the same manner, following a strict routine, very organized and Flaps hands, rocks body or spins self in circles.
An early diagnosis followed by timely intervention in the form of ABA therapy combined with other forms of therapy such as occupational or speech-language can do wonders in the life of an Autistic child and their family.