Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition including communication, developmental language, and social interaction skills’ impairment. The condition makes a child have difficulties in communicating with others, understanding how they feel or think. They also have social/interaction challenges. As a result, they have unique communication means, behavioral skills, and special interests. Besides, they may have unusual responses to objects, attachments, and people. Autism is not attributable to a single known cause; however, researchers have revealed that environmental factors and genetics play a critical role in the determination of whether or not a child develops autism. While autism shares some symptoms with other developmental disorders, some specific ones are limited to autism. Some of these would include communication problems, interaction challenges, understanding other people’s emotions among others. Notably, to date, the condition has no prescribed medication or treatments; however, various therapies could be conducted to reduce the disorder severity. These therapies include among others family and educational therapies. Autism has no specific cure, but its symptoms can be managed through the use of various strategies.
Keywords: Autism, Disorder, Symptoms, Developmental, Skills
Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD) or simply autism refers to the complex neurobehavioral condition including communication, developmental language, and social interaction skills’ impairment. Also, the disorder is characterized by rigid, repetitive behaviors. The condition was initially referred to as autism, however, after establishing that it had several symptoms, its name got changed to Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD). Other previous disorders falling under the umbrella diagnosis of ASD include autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, pervasive development disorder, and Childhood disintegrative disorder. ASD covers a vast spectrum of levels of impairment, skills, and symptoms. Also, its severity ranges from a handicap to devastating disability that may require intensive care. Of the many challenges that children with autism have, the major ones include difficulties in communicating with others and understanding how they feel or think. As a result, these children find it hard expressing themselves either through touch, facial expressions, gestures or words. They also have body movements that are repetitive and stereotyped such as hand flapping, pacing, and rocking. Besides, they may have unusual responses to objects, attachments, and people. In short, the condition results in communication, developmental language, and social interaction skills impairments.
Causes of Autism
Autism is not attributable to a single known cause. (MAYO). However, given the variance in the severity and symptoms of the condition and also the disorder’s complexity, there are probably various causes. Both the environment and genetics may play a role. In regards to genetics, multiple studies have revealed that numerous genes are involved in ASD. In some children, ASD causal gets associated with some genetic disorders including fragile X syndrome or Rett Syndrome. For another category of children, mutations or genetic changes plays a significant role in increasing the chances of ASD. The mutations or genetic alterations are associated with affecting the development of the brain through interfering with brain cells’ communication. Environmental factors are other ASD associated cause is the environmental factors. Currently, researchers are exploring the possibilities of ASD being caused by various environmental factors. Such factors that have been in the recent past associated with the ASD cause include among others air pollutants, complications or medications during pregnancies and viral infections.
While most children do not follow the parental books’ development timeline, usually, children with Autism tend to show considerable delayed development especially before the age of two. Identification of whether or not a child has autism would be challenging since some of the condition’s signs and symptoms are linked with other developmental disorders. However, individual should seek doctors’ attention if they identify the following warning signs in their children:
Loss of social skills or language skills at any age.
By 24 months, the baby does not say two-word phrases.
By 16 months, the baby does not say single words.
By 14 months, he or she does not gesture.
By 12 months, he or she does not coo or babble.
By nine months, the baby does not mimic facial expressions or sounds.
By six months, he or she does not respond with happy expression or a smile.
Symptoms of Autism
As earlier mentioned, autism causes communication, developmental language, and social interaction skills’ impairments. As a result, most of the symptoms of the condition are related to the communication, development language and social interaction challenges.
Social Skills: For children who have ASD, they have difficulties interacting with others. Therefore, social skills problems are the most common signs. They include among others:
Being unable to respond to his or her name by one year.
Prefers being alone.
Rejects or avoids physical contact.
Lack of interest in talking, sharing and playing with his or her fellows.
Does not recognize or understand other people’s emotions.
He does not like being comforted especially when upset.
Avoids eye contact.
Communication Skills: While 25 to 30% of children with Autism develop language skills but later lose them, approximately 40% do not talk at all. The most common communication problems such children have to include among others the following:
Not recognizing sarcasm or jokes.
The inability of staying on topic especially while answering questions or talking.
Experience problems with pronouns such as you and I.
Most have a singsong voice or flat, robotic speaking voice.
Delayed language skills and speech.
Behavior Patterns: Apart from communication and social skills challenges, children with ADHD also experiences unusual interests and behavior patterns including the following:
Repetitive behaviors like twirling, jumping, rocking, or hand-flapping.
“Hyper” behavior and constant moving (pacing).
Fixations on individual objects and behaviors.
Getting upset when specific rituals or routines get changed.
Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, and touch.
Short attention span
Demonstration of aggressive behaviors.
Fussy eating habits.
Autism has “no one-size-fits-all treatment” nor does it have an existing cure. However, the various treatment options aim at maximization of the ability of children with autism to function through the reduction of the condition’s symptoms and also supporting learning and development. Early interventions also help the children develop or learn critical behavioral, functional, communication and social skills. The available treatment options may include among others certain medications that seek to control the disorder’s symptoms, family therapies, educational therapies among other forms of therapies such as speech therapy that aims at improving the children’s communication skills.
Impacts on development
As earlier indicated, autism will have considerable impacts on a child’s development. These impacts or challenges relate more to communication, social interactions and behavioral. Some of the common impacts on social interaction and communication that a child may experience include among others the following. First, they may have difficulties speaking; as a result, they mostly have delayed speech with some becoming unable to effectively and efficiently communicate once they reach a certain age. For those speaking, they speak with an abnormal tone usually a singsong voice. Secondly, these children are usually poor at reading other people’s emotion/facial expressions and also have challenges interacting with others. In regards to behaviors, they typically develop unique patterns such as the performance of repetitive movements among others. In short, autism slows down or interferes with the normal growth of a child.
Signs and symptoms of autism get detected through regular checkups by a doctor who looks up for various signs of developmental delays. The doctor may also assess the condition by testing for the condition through tests covering behavioral, social, developmental, language, speech, and hearing issues.
Creating a Supportive Learning Environment
It is important for those around children with autism to show them, love. They should create an enabling environment for these kids for them to feel accepted by society. Therefore, guardians and teachers should seek to learn more about the condition and seek appropriate treatment or medication options available.
Tools and Strategies Available
While there are no specific tools available to control autism, thousand and one strategies exist. Some of the most common ones include following a child’s interests, simplifying the language for them to understand better, leaving “space” for these children to express themselves, and encourage play and social interactions.
As an umbrella term, assistive technology refers to the rehabilitative, adaptive and assistive devices for the elderly population or people with special needs such as autistic children. The use of assistive technology among the people with special needs help individuals adapt to their environment with ease and therefore find it easier interacting and leading a normal life. However, it can limit the freedom and way of lives of individuals. In particular, its use among children who have autism would disturb them as most of them have unique interests which may be challenging to understand.