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Autism – Understanding the Spectrum

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a form of neuro-developmental disorder. It can be understood as, low to high range of impairments in regular social behaviours. Research is still on to find the actual cause of ASD.

The most recent report estimates the rate of autism as 1 in 160 children. ASD has been reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 27% of children diagnosed used medication to assist with symptom management. 64% of children had received some type of behavioral therapy within the last 12 months.

Often, we tend to stereotype out of ignorance. Let’s be more aware. The pointers below are only indicators to take an expert’s consultation.

Very Early Indicators of Autism

  • Child not pointing or babbling by age 1
  • No single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • Not responding to name
  • Poor eye contact
  • Lining up of toys/ objects excessively
  • No smiling or social responsiveness

Sometimes, not responding could be due to a hearing problem which can lead to delayed speech development. Always rule out the possibility with an ENT specialist.

As the child grows, indicators can include:

  • Inability to make friends
  • Unable to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • Unusual use of language or repetition
  • Abnormally focused or intense interest in something
  • Preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • Not able to consistently adhere to specific routines or rituals.

Every child is unique and behaves differently.

When a child faces difficulty in doing a task in an expected manner, it is incorrect to brand them as autistic. Many a time, the child not doing something could be due to the stress in their surroundings like bullying, an abusive environment at home or not getting enough attention.

A random tantrum/meltdown can be ignored. But If the behaviour is repetitive and consistently displayed over a period of time, diagnosis is the way to go forward.

Importance of family support

Children who are on a high spectrum of autism need a lot of support. Early educational and behavioural interventions, through highly structured skill-oriented training sessions, to help develop social and language skills by therapists, have been very successful in many children with ASD.

Also, counselling of the family of a child with ASD helps the family, in coping up with particular challenges of living with a high spectrum autistic child.

Almost all of the children with low – medium spectrum autism can live a normal independent life with early interventions.

The awareness towards autism is increasing but inclusiveness is something that is lacking.

Providing support to the caregivers, accepting the autistic children as they are, and empathising with them instead of distancing them, is what will make a difference.

Autism Statistics

When analyzing autism rates by country, studies in Asia, Europe, and North American have all determined an average prevalence rate between 1 and 2%.

Approximately 44% of children with ASD have average to above-average intellectual ability.

Diagnosis of autism at the age of 2 can be reliable, valid, and stable throughout the child’s life. However, most children do not receive an official autism diagnosis until after the age of 4

Boys were 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism when compared to girls

Children born preterm were more likely to be diagnosed than those who were not

Children born in the US were more likely to be diagnosed than those born in another country

The prevalence of ASD was 47% higher for children with single mothers when compared to children in 2-parent, married households

Children with ASD are more likely to suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and seizures.

Did you know?

When compared to children with other emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders, children with autism were more likely to have seen a specialist, receive mental health services, and have a special education plan or early intervention services. Interestingly, they were 44% more likely to have difficulty receiving mental health treatment, 23% less likely to have a designated doctor for their needs, and 24% less likely to receive proper case management and care coordination services in US.