The Journey Through Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a degenerative disorder. Individuals with ASD will have deficits in social communications and interactions, restricted and repetitive pattern of interests, activities and behaviors and these symptoms become manifested during the early developmental period. Deficits in social communication and interaction various from individuals to individuals and it depends on several factors such as intellectual abilities, language level, history of treatment given, individuals age and current support. They may have deficits in (1) nonverbal communication such as poor eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, speech intonation, impaired joint attention, lack of pointing etc. and (2) verbal communication such as echolalia present ,poor comprehension of speech, poor initiation of communication etc. They may have lack of social interest or may have unusual social interactions (avoid eye contact, pulling individuals hands without looking at their face ),atypical play pattern (spinning the wheels of cars without playing with it, holding the toys in hands and not playing with it) and unusual communication patterns (not responding to name call, but knowing all the alphabets and numbers).Hand flapping, finger flicking ,self-spinning, spinning coins and wheels of vehicles, lining up toys, echolalia, excessive adherence to routines, resistance to change, enjoying repetition(eating the same foods and watching the same video ) etc. are the restricted and repetitive pattern of behaviors seen in individuals with ASD. Autistic person can have hyper- or hypo reactivity to sensory input, manifested through extreme responses to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, fascination with lights or spinning objects, and sometimes apparent indifference to pain, heat, or cold.

Advanced parental age, low birth weight, fetal exposure to valproate, family history, male gender (ASD is diagnosed 4 times more in males than females) are risk factors for ASD. Intellectual impairment and language disorder are frequently associated with ASD. According to DSM -5 individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder. A term ‘high functional autism’ is used to refer autistic people who can read, write, speak and manage life skills without much assistance.

Even now most people are not aware of autism spectrum disorder and their signs and symptoms .Four criteria’s that used for the diagnosis of ASD is persistent impairment in social communication and social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities and these symptoms are present from early childhood and limit or impair everyday functioning. To raise awareness about autism and educate people about it, 2nd April is celebrated as world autism day.

Currently there is no medical cure for ASD .But there are treatment methods like Speech therapy, Occupation therapy ,Special education behavioral therapy, physiotherapy that can help the autistic people to overcome a variety of developmental challenges and acquire new skill. For example a speech language pathologist will help the child in communication skills, feeding problem, social skills, and function in day to day life. An occupational therapist will help to learn activities of daily living, to deal with the sensory aspects, Improve fine motor skills etc.