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Autism - A disorder you must know about

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex neuro-behavioural disorder that includes impairments in social interaction, developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviour. The disorder covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment. It ranges in severity from a handicap that can somewhat limit an otherwise completely regular life, to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.

What does it comprise of?

Children with autism have trouble in communication. They have difficulty in understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves in any manner, either with words or through gestures, facial expressions and touch. A child with autism, who is also sensitive, may be greatly troubled by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to others.

Many people with autism are cognitively impaired to some degree. People with autism show uneven skill development. They may have problems in certain areas, especially the ability to communicate and relate to others. But they may have unusually developed skills in other areas, such as drawing, creating music, solving math problems, or memorising content. For this reason, they may fare better and score higher, perhaps even in the average or above-average range on non-verbal intelligence tests.

When does it start?

Autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth. Others seem to develop normally at first, slipping into the symptoms suddenly, when they are 18 to 36 months old. However, it is now recognised that some individuals may not show symptoms of a communication disorder until demands of the environment exceed their capabilities.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Repetitive body movements such as rocking, pacing or hand flapping

  • Unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change their routine

  • Aggressive or self-injurious behaviour

  • Appearing to not to notice people, objects, or activities in the surroundings, at times

  • Developing seizures (In some cases, the seizures may not occur until adolescence)

What can you do?

  • Don’t wait for a diagnosis

  • Be consistent

  • Stick to a schedule in the child’s life

  • Reward good behaviour

  • Make home a safety zone

  • Find non-verbal ways to connect with the child and also keep an eye out for non-verbal cues

  • Figure out the need behind the tantrum, or the trigger behind the discomfort

  • Make time for fun as this will help them involve into regular life faster

  • Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities

Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. It knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle or educational levels do not affect a child's chance of being autistic. Autism is said to be increasing. However, it is not entirely clear whether the increase is related to changes in how it is diagnosed, or whether it is a true increase in the incidence of the disease.

While that can be left upto the specialists, in the time being, using the tips given above and also involving in more detailed research yourself, will greatly help you improve the life of any child suffering from autism. The most important to remember is patience and empathy towards the child.

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