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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder

Let us first understand what Autism spectrum disorder is all about.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder. It is generally seen in the first two years of life. It affects the behavior and Communication of a child. It is possible to diagnose Autism spectrum disorder at any age. However symptoms of Autism spectrum disorder manifest during the first couple of years of life and hence this particular disorder is often called as a ‘developmental disorder’.

The Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders mentions that people suffering with Autism spectrum disorder have the following symptoms

  • They find it difficult to communicate and
  • Find it uncomfortable to interact with other people
  • they show behavior that is more repetitive in nature
  • the kind of interest they carry seem to be more restricted
  • Overall when you look at a person suffering from Autism spectrum disorder it could be seen that the symptoms shown by the person often hampers the person's ability To function normally at school or at work and in other parts of his life.

By the way, the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders is an official publication that has been posted by the American psychiatric Association. It is used by professionals across the country as part of their diagnosis process of mental disorders including Autism spectrum disorder.

The symptoms of Autism spectrum disorder can range from being extremely mild to severe. People with mild symptoms almost function as normal people. Whereas people with severe symptoms have difficulty in carrying out their day to day lives. This kind of wide variation in the intensity and severity of symptoms is one of the reasons why the word spectrum is used and is made part of the Autism spectrum disorder condition name itself.

Not only the level of intensity of symptoms but also a wide variation in terms of the type of people who suffer from the Autism spectrum disorder is also the reason for using the term spectrum. Autism spectrum disorder is seen to take place in children of all ethical, racial and economic groups. As mentioned above symptoms can range from extremely mild to severe. When diagnosed with ASD, it should be noted that the symptoms will last for the rest of the person’s life. However treatments and therapies have proven to improve a person's ability to function normally and also improve symptoms. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children should be screened for autism.

Symptoms

Let us now look at some of the signs and symptoms as shown by people diagnosed with ASD. Our focus in this write up is mainly on the social Communications aspect and the restrictive-repetitive behavior aspect only.

Social communication-interaction with others
 

  • people suffering from ASD do not look at or listen to you even when they are directly spoken to.
  • They make very little eye contact. Even when they do it seems to be inconsistent.
  • They seem to have trouble with back and forth of communications.
  • When someone calls their name they are very slow to respond to or sometimes they even fail to respond
  • They find it difficult to share the enjoyment of objects or activities.
  • When they find a topic of interest they continue to talk for long periods of time without considering if the other person is interested or not and not giving the other person a chance to say something.
  • In some cases they seem to carry an unusual tone of voice that sounds mechanical in nature.
  • They find it difficult to comprehend others point of you

 
Repetitive behavior
 

  • They seem to show specific behavior patterns over and over again. These include
  • Uttering words or phrases over and over again.
  • In some cases they also exhibit unusual behavior.
  • They show unusual levels of interest in moving objects.
  • When their routine is subjected to a slight change it can be seen that they get upset quickly.
  • They also show not only unusual levels of interest but also lasting intense interest in certain topics. This could be math or some kind of details etcetera.
  • When they are exposed to things like light, noise, temperature they can be more sensitive than other people.

 
the kind of symptoms so far listed above only seem to be more challenging for those suffering from ASD. However people suffering from ASD also exhibit characteristics which can be their strengths.

These include

  •  they are observed to be very strong auditory and visual learners.
  • Most of them Excel in areas such as math, science,  music , and art.
  • As stated above people suffering from ASD often have focused and lasting intense interest on certain topics which can be beneficial for them.

 
Causes


It is not known exactly what causes autistic spectrum disorder. Scientists believe that genetic problems coupled with influences from the environment seem to be causing autistic spectrum disorders. Some well believed risk factors include.

  •  children of older parents
  • having a sibling who is suffering from the autistic spectrum disorder
  •  having other genetic conditions
  •  having very low weight at birth

 
 Diagnosis
 diagnosis in young children happens in two stages


 stage 1
 stage 1 of diagnosis takes place during the well child check-ups. This is done by a pediatrician or equivalent Healthcare provider who works with young children.
 
 Stage 2

Stage 2 of the evaluation deals with additional screening.  Screening includes assessing the following elements.

  •  Child’s language abilities
  •  thinking skills
  •  cognitive levels
  •  skills that are thought to be appropriate for the age of the child.
     

 unlike the stage one of the evaluation process, stage two of the evaluation is carried out by a team of Healthcare professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD. The composition of this team consists of.

  •  Speech pathologist
  •  a neuropsychologist
  •  a child psychologist
  •  a child psychiatrist
  •  a pediatrician

 
 when it comes to diagnosing ASD in adults the following elements are considered.

  • Repetitive behavior
  •  restricted interest
  • Sensory issues
  • Communication challenges and or social interaction difficulties

 
Treatments
Treatment of ASD includes the following two groups

  1. Medication
  2. Behavioral, psychological and educational therapy


Medication
Doctors often prescribe medication taking into consideration some of the most common symptoms associated with ASD. This medication often seem to work best to reduce the following symptoms

  • depression and anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • Repetitive behavior
  • aggression and irritability
  • difficulty in maintaining focus, attention

 
Behavioral therapy
As part of the behavioral psychological and educational therapy program, the following aspects are considered.
consciously learn communication skills and language skills
learn necessary life skills so that the person can live on his own
challenging behaviors are to be identified and necessary therapy is provided to reduce the behaviors
in a similar manner strong elements as exhibited by the person ought to be noticed and those strengths should be fostered.

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