According to WHO Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and carried out repetitively. A certain set of behaviours defines Autism. It is a “spectrum-condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees. There is no known cause of Autism. Early diagnosis helps the individual to receive help and support required to lead a quality life. It causes problems functioning in the society. Children often show symptoms in the first year. However sometimes children appear to develop normally in the first year and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months when they develop Autism symptoms.
It is estimated that 1 in every 160 children have autism worldwide. The prevalence of ASD appears to be increasing globally. Environment and genetics are believed to be the primary causes of Autism. Intervention is required in the early years to tackle autism. For the optimal development and well being of a child with autism, routine monitoring of child development, maternal and child health care is required. There is no cure for autism. However evidence-based psychological interventions such as behavioural treatment and skills training programmes for parents and caregivers reduces the difficulties in communication and social behaviour. The complex health-care needs of people with ASD require a wide range of integrated services like health promotion, care, rehabilitation services and collaboration with other sectors like education, employment and social care.
Some of the signs and symptoms to look for in early infancy are reduced eye contact, lack of response to their name and indifference to care givers. Some children may have normal development in the early years and then become withdrawn or aggressive. They may also lose language skills that they had already developed. Sings are usually seen by the age of 2 years. Each child with autism spectrum disorder is likely to have a unique pattern of behaviour and level of severity, from low to high functioning. Some children have difficulty learning and lower IQ. However, some may have high intelligence and learn quickly yet have trouble communicating and applying their knowledge in everyday life and adjusting to situations. It is often seen that children with ASD use a singsong or robotic voice to communicate, does not understand simple sentences, questions and directions, is expressionless with emotions and feelings, inappropriately approaches a social situation with passive-aggressiveness or disruptiveness, has difficulty understanding non-verbal cues such as understanding facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice. They often perform repetitive movements such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping, self-harming activities such as head-banging and biting.
As they get older some children to become more engaged and show fewer disturbances in behaviour. Others with severe conditions will continue to have difficulty in social skills and the teen years would bring in worse behavioural and emotional problems.
If you’re concerned about your child’s development or you suspect that your child may have autism spectrum disorder, discuss your concerns with your doctor. The symptoms associated with the disorder can also be linked with other developmental disorders.