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Autism and what you need to know!

Updated: Dec 13, 2022


What is autism?


Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a set of conditions that develop due to neurological or developmental disorders. It affects how the person interacts, behaves, communicates, and learns in several ways, thereby making them different from others.

The word spectrum is used because there can be a wide variety of symptoms in different individuals, for instance, one child might have impressive social skills, while the other might be totally non-verbal. Autism can be diagnosed at any age, but its symptoms often start appearing by the age of 2yrs.


What are the signs of Autism?


A person with autism has difficulty in three main domains: social interaction, behaviour, and learning. A few characteristic signs of autism are-


Social interaction and communication skills

  • Respond slowly or won’t respond when you call their name.

  • Has difficulty sharing interests, activities, or emotions.

  • The child talks about a topic for a long duration without realizing the other person is losing interest in the topic.

  • Difficulty in understanding or predicting other people's actions.

  • They might be uncomfortable in social settings.

  • They don’t like being held or cuddling.

Language and learning skills

  • The child might repeat words or phrases again and again.

  • They may have speech delays.

  • Having difficulty in keeping up a two-way conversation.

  • If they have an unusual tone when they talk- a singsong voice or robotic voice.

  • Has difficulty making eye contact while talking.

Behaviour

  • Gets used to things being arranged a certain way and gets angry things are being moved.

  • Has ritualistic behaviour and has difficulty adapting to changes in routine.

  • Gets fascinated by objects like moving wheels or parts of objects.

  • Showing lasting intense interest in certain topics like numbers, facts, or details.

  • Plays with the same toys every time.

  • Increased or decreased sensitivity to light, smell, sound, clothing, or touch.

Few strengths of a child with autism

  • Being strong visual and auditory learners.

  • Retaining memory for certain information for long durations.

  • Excellent in maths, science, music, or art.

It is not compulsory that your child will show all the characteristic signs, a formal assessment is very important for the diagnosis of autism.


What is slight autism?


As per the new DSM criteria, autism is categorized into different levels as per the spectrum of symptoms, severity, and frequency. People with slight autism fall under level 1 as the symptoms are not severe enough for them to require a high level of support.

In the case of slight autism, symptoms are of mild forms, and a majority of the symptoms revolve around social interactions.

A person with slight autism often has difficulty communicating, and reading other people’s facial expressions, can get stressed in social situations, and tries to make friends but has difficulty maintaining close friendships.


What is high-functioning autism?


High-functioning autism is an informal term used to describe people with autism who are able to read, write, speak, and perform basic tasks of life. They can live independently.

People with high-functioning autism do face difficulties with social interaction, and communication, having a hard time making friends. These people are quite adapted to their routines and they have repetitive habits that might seem odd to others.

Although a person with high-functioning autism can do all the above-mentioned activities, they can benefit from individual therapy in overcoming the challenges they face in social interactions.



What causes nonverbal autism?


People with autism who do not speak more than a few words are said to have non-verbal autism, it is not a diagnostic term, it tends to occur in level 3 autism or most severe autism. Some people with nonverbal autism often learn to speak a few meaningful words but they often fail to keep up significant conversations. For instance, the child will be able to say ‘park’ if he wants to play in the park but he won't be able to express what games he wants to play.

A child with non-verbal autism may not use speech effectively enough to communicate, but they may write, and use picture cards, and digital aids like various apps to express their needs.


At what age does a child with autism speak?


On average, a child with autism often speaks his or her first words by 36 months, compared to peers who normally speak their first words between 12 to 18 months.

Development of speech by 5 to 6 years of age is an important determinant of whether the child will develop higher or lower-functioning autism, as it is related to better social communication as an adult.


Does delayed speech mean Autism?


Even though language, communication, and speech delay are important features of autism, speech delay on its own can be due to a wide range of disorders.

A major difference between speech delay and autism is communication, a child with autism will have difficulty in establishing communication either verbal or non-verbal, whereas a child with speech delay will try communicating in some way through gestures or in some non-verbal way.

A child with a speech delay will have social interaction as a driving factor. They like getting attention, like being held, they often mimic other people's actions, and they get bored or sad when left alone. However, the child with autism often lags in establishing meaningful social relationships.



Can you outgrow autism?


There is no definite yes or no answer for this, it's more about working with and growing into the symptoms of autism. According to the DSM criteria, autism is often diagnosed in the early years of age and persists throughout a person’s life. Some people understand it and learn to mask it at least in some situations.

Nowadays autism is perceived more as a neurotype rather than a disorder, people with autism often don’t search for cures instead they think of it as their personality and learn to accommodate better with the disorder.


How can I prevent autism?


Pregnancy is a crucial time for the development of a child's brain, hence few precautions should be taken during this period to prevent autism in your child-

  • Regular checkups- it is of utmost importance to visit your doctor regularly as it will help you keep track of your and your baby’s health.

  • Timely intake of folic acid supplements during pregnancy is very important for the development of a baby’s brain.

  • Spacing out pregnancies- it is suggested to have a space of 2 to 5 years between two consecutive pregnancies, the risk of autism increases to 50% if the children are conceived within 12 months.

  • Age of parents- Pregnancy in older age increases the risk of autism, do consult your doctor before starting a family.

  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, and intake of certain drugs during pregnancy as they can severely affect the development of a child’s brain.


If you would like to speak to our speech-language pathologist, you can schedule a consultation with us here or WhatsApp us here.


Reference


1. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?


2. National institute of mental health- autism spectrum disorder.


3. What Is 'High-Functioning' Autism? By Amy Marschall, PsyD


4. Age of first words predicts cognitive ability and adaptive skills in children with ASD


5. Can You Grow Out of Autism? Common Misconceptions and How to Offer Support


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