What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological and developmental disorder that typically begins early in childhood and will persist throughout the duration of a person’s life. Autism Spectrum Disorder is presented with an onset of certain characteristic in behaviours affecting individuals in varying degrees. A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder will exhibit a range of symptoms notably expressing and having difficulty conversing with those around them, inability to maintain eye contact when spoken to, delay in spoken language, repetitive use of language and motor gestures, limited interests and restricted relationship to peers.
While there is no clear cut cause to autism, it has been cited that genetic other risk factors play a role in the Autism Spectrum Disorder. For genetic risk factors, studies have shown that autism has an inclination of running in families. The change in certain genes will increase the risk of the person developing autism. If a parent is carrying more of these gene changes, this may have the possibility of being passed on to the child even if one of the parents don’t have autism. At times, gene changes will occur in an early embryo or the sperm, that will later combine to create the embryo. However, this will only increase the risk of the disorder and not the autism in itself. Other factors include, older age in parents, complications in birth and pregnancy, and pregnancies planned less than a year a part.
So, what exactly is the classification of Autism Spectrum? Currently, there are three levels of autism.
Although these categorizations exist it’s important to note that there is a large variance for children with Autism Spectrum and that diagnosing based on symptoms alone is quite challenging. These levels aren’t established based off of the specific symptoms but the acuteness of them.
LEVEL 1: For individuals within level one, would be seen as needing support. They’re most likely to be verbal, but, will struggle between back and forth communication, and initiating conversations, in terms of their social skills. They will also be deficient in the emotions and interest of other people and may face challenges in developing relationships with people around them and will come across as atypical or strange.
LEVEL 2: For level two, individuals in this category will require average support. They will usually have a bigger amount of the ability to communicate compared to those in level three, but, still have restricted verbal and non-verbal skills. They will also be inflexible, and will strain with timetables and show repetitive behavior.
LEVEL 3: Lastly for those in level three, they will need a sufficiently great amount of support. Individual in this category may have very little speech or communication, and is likely to have severe physical functionalities. They will also, as in level two display repetitive behavior, and will have difficulties interacting and responding to others.
While the challenges of raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder will correspond depending on the mild to severe conditions experienced in their day to day living, parents also share and struggle in nurturing and their children. Parents would relate to feeling frustration, confusion, guilt and depression, which are valid emotions to feel and experience. For example, feelings of frustration may be palpable when their child acts clumsy, has little disregard for others, may be lacking in responsiveness, or when the behavior of the child is being hard to handle.
As parents, it’s understandable to feel anxiety over the future of their children, there’s a tendency to feel that their children with Autism Spectrum might not have the same experience as able-bodied children do, and from there they may attain feelings of grief and loss, not only for the expectation of the child but for the parent’s as well. If the stress of parenting for children with Autism Spectrum becomes too overwhelming, seeking counselling or therapy may be beneficial in the long term in handling, managing and coping with stress. It’s vital to remember, children living with autism have the capability of having happy and meaningful lives too.
In today’s standards of diagnosing individuals with Autism Spectrum is broad and includes a spectrum of children with a varying degrees of skills and impairments. Due to this, developmental disorder may differ from child to child. The diverse nature of the Autism Spectrum Disorder therefore presents difficulty in making an accurate diagnosis. At times, autistic children are, and, have been erroneously diagnosed with other disorders, like, ADHD and at other times, children are also misdiagnosed with autism when they aren’t. It is for these reasons that parents should know what constituents an autism diagnosis.
Some helpful questions to ask is what information should a doctor who’s evaluating your child should be observing and considering? Is your doctor utilizing the best procedures and practices in doing an assessment? Issues in communication and interaction are often seen as potential signs of autism, but it’s also a source of uncertainty.
“There are a lot of things that can cause social problems,” points out Dr. Susan Epstein, a neuropsychologist. “There are subtle language disorders that can masquerade as autism, or other disorders, particularly when they appear in clusters – ADHD, learning disorders, depression.” To formulate the right diagnosis, gathering and interpreting information of the child is necessary. “Children should receive an assessment that goes beyond screening and diagnostic tools to get the fullest possible picture of what is happening before making a diagnosis.” Dr. Epstein recommends.
While there is no cure to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder, symptoms such as depression, insomnia and difficulty paying attention can be treated with certain medicine as research have shown medication is most optimal when executed alongside with behavioural therapies. Several keys to help children with autism is to provide structure and safety for them such as, consistency, sticking to a schedule, rewarding good behaviour.
Next, one must find non-verbal ways to connect, for example, looking for non-verbal cues, figuring out the motivation behind the tantrum, making time for fun and paying attention to your child’s sensory inclinations. While choosing a treatment plan for autism can proof to be hard in terms of treatment plans and different approaches, it’s crucial to remember that each individual with autism is different as therapy can reduce problematic behaviours such as sensory integration problems, motor skills and good sensitivities.
Other than that, individuals with autism may benefit from proven treatments such as, behaviour therapy, speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy may help ease and improve the condition of one’s child. For those seeking help and additional information on this topic, you may contact Persatuan C.H.I.L.D Sabah by reaching them at 088-288761 or drop them an email at [email protected]