Patient Awareness

What is Autism?

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As the baby grows, the mother worries. Why does it not recognize her or smile at her like kids its age? She shares her concerns with the doctor and the verdict is that the child is suffering from autism. In autism, the child has problems in social interactions and exhibits repetitive behavior. The primary caregivers, in most cases the parents note that something is amiss within the first three years of the child’s life.

Causes

Autism is a long-term disease. Environment and genes play a huge role in contributing towards autism.

  • Genes play an important role in making someone susceptible to autism.
  • If a pregnant woman suffers a Rubella infection (German Measles)
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) if left untreated
  • Encephalitis
  • Chemical imbalances
  • Lack of oxygen at birth
  • Alcohol or drug use during pregnancy

What Happens?

In people who suffer from autism, the information processed by the brain differs due to alterations in the nerve cells and their connections. Many factors contribute to this and scientists are not sure why this happens.

Early intervention to improve speech and behavior can help autistic children gain confidence and make them able slightly independent. A child who has autism will still be dependent as an adult.

Characteristics

It is not necessary that those who have autism are severely impaired. Some of them may have some developmental lag but may be far superior in other aspects.

  • Those who suffer from autism have noticeable impaired social interactions. They show less attention to others, smile less and respond less to their names being called out. Small children who are autistic may not point to ask for things, show less social inhibition and prefer to communicate without words. However. They form deep bonding with their primary caregiver.
  • Autistic children have severe impairments in communications. They babble later, employ unusual gestures, and exhibit lower responsiveness and uncoordinated vocalization with their parents. They neither share experience nor request for things. They often keep repeating certain words. Imaginative play doesn’t develop in them.
  • Another discerning characteristic of autism is repetitive behavior. They might indulge in head rolling, rocking their bodies or flapping their hands repeatedly. Anything that consumes time reduces their anxiety. For example, they feel compelled to follow rigid rules like arranging things in a specific order, stacking things, washing their hands etc. They show resistance in accepting change and might have issues with small things such as moving furniture. They may take very unkindly to being interrupted. They, generally get preoccupied with a single toy or a game. They may indulge in self-harming behavior such as poking their eyes, biting their hands or banging their heads.
  • Many individuals who have autism might very superior attention and perception. They might suffer from unusual eating patterns. They may get distressingly selective about food and eat only a particular item only leading to malnutrition.

Prognosis

There is no cure for autism. Some children recover from it but how that happens stays unexplained.  Most children require speech and behavioral therapy.

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