Autism is a neuro-biological developmental disorder which usually appears in early childhood and continues throughout someone's life. It is characterized by three primary symptoms
Many autistic children also have a reduced sensitivity to pain while many have a heightened sensitivity to stimulation like sound, touch etc., The latter may result in a resistance to touch gestures like hugging.
Autism is diagnosed by medical professionals through a thorough screening, observation and analysis of the child's behaviour over a period of time.
[Editor's note: The information here is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for a medical professional's advise and guidance]
Some of the triggers that parents should watch out for include1:
Some publications2also provide the following triggers for parents to watch out for. Please be careful to note that a number of the following triggers are also exhibited by perfectly normal children.
When these triggers occur a parent should consult a doctor and a doctor may conduct an extensive screening that focuses on the 3 areas listed above - communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviour. Sometimes, speech development can get delayed because of reduced hearing rather than autism. So a hearing test is usually one of the first tests a doctor will order.
Once a thorough analysis is done, a diagnosis is usually made by the doctors.
No conclusions have been reached yet. Scientific research points to genetics and environment but nothing conclusive has been discovered yet.
Early in 2008, there was a move to connect vaccines and autism, with some studies suggesting that certain vaccines could cause it. However, these studies have not held up under further scientific scrutiny2.
No cure for autism has been discovered yet.
Current treatment methods combine behavioral therapy and medication.
Behavioral therapy is delivered by trained therapists and uses many of the following methods:
Medication to reduce specific symptoms associated with autism (like behaviour that causes self-injury).
Autism (now called "classical autism" and what most people refer to) is part of a group of developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Many times, terms like autism, ASD and PDD are used interchangeably.
We have not found any scientific research that tried to assess the prevalence of autism in India. There are reports that claim that the problem is underdiagnosed because of lack of information about the disorder.
In the US, the estimates are that 1 in 150 chldren have some form of ASD3.
1. Filipek, et al. (2000), "Practice Parameter: Screening and Diagnosis of Autism - Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society", Neurology, 55:468-479
2. "Autism Overview", National Institute of Child Health and Development, National Institutes of Health
3. CDC Autism Information Center
Parentree group - Parents of autistic children
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