When you hear of autism, the image that probably comes to mind is a child with a short attention span and seems to be living in his or her world. That’s not pretty far from the truth.
Based on the estimate of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 1 in 68 children are found to have and that it is prevalently 4.5 times seen in boys than in girls.
According to Jane Framingham, Ph.D., “Autism exists on a spectrum. People with severe forms of autism may have a difficult time with everyday activities that significantly limit the kinds of things they do as an adult. People with less severe forms of autism may appear to be perfectly normal, except in certain social situations where the impairment becomes more apparent.”
How to Spot Autism
A child’s development. Early signs of the disease may show within a child’s first two years.
“Sometimes I work with families where we’re seeing things differently,” says Psychologist Emily E. Neuhaus. “It may be that I’m pointing out difficulties they’re not seeing, or they may be seeing difficulties they feel a clinician is not seeing,” she adds.
Observing a child’s development is the key to helping you identify any unusual or abnormal delay in his cognitive growth. Signs that a child may have, include:
- Not responding to his name when called by the time he reaches 12 months
- Not showing signs of interest on objects around him by the time he turns one
- Frequently flaps his arms or rocks in place
- Quickly gets agitated or distressed when something changes
- Eludes eye contact
- Prefers to be alone
- Rarely displays interactive gestures such as waving at someone
- Delay in speech development
- When able to speak, he reiterates the same words or phrases several times
A child with ASD may likewise show unusual behavior such as having an obsessive interest in an object, meticulously arranging toys in a single line, repeating actions such as spinning in circles or rocking sideways among others.
Having the habit of looking into a toy box situated against a wall every time he enters a particular room. If they’re unable to do that, they will most likely get upset and throw tantrums.
Other behavioral signs may be similar to ADHD such as being hyperactive, impulsive and having a short attention span. An autistic patient may also show aggression, may inflict self-injury, go through frequent temper tantrums, display bizarre sleeping habits, and exhibits strange emotional reactions.
How to Cure or How to Cope
Specific medications to magically cure don’t exist, but some can help in the development of a person with ASD and improve how he functions.
Early intervention services offer therapy to help an autistic child in language and communication, social and emotional as well as motor development.
Catherine Davies, LMHC, stresses, “Although your son or daughter may not be ready for these changes emotionally, they need to be prepared for them, as they are going to happen whether they (or you!) are ready or not. Additionally, there is a wealth of evidence that individuals with ASD need to learn about both the facts as they pertain to sex and the details of social relationships in order to enable them to develop healthy relationships as adults and reduce the risk of them becoming victimized by others.”
There are therapies available to help an autistic child learn skills to help them live as normally and independently as possible. Occupational therapy may help them learn everyday skills such as bathing, getting dressed and interacting with people. Speech therapy may help improve communication skills. Sensory integration therapy may help them deal with sights, sounds and smells that usually affect their moods or emotions.
Having to care for a child with ASD may prove to be a challenge but understanding the condition and how a child with this disorder sees the world may just be your survival guide.