What is Autism?
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that mainly affects the person’s communication and social skills. It is characterized by rigid and repetitive behaviors and is neurological and behavioral, in nature. It occurs in 1 of 45 children in the United States alone and also occurs four times more in boys than in girls.
ASD begins early in childhood and can persist to adolescence and adulthood. There are some great outcomes that enable the person to live independently, but some may have severe disabilities requiring lifelong support.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The term “spectrum” in ASD means that different symptoms may appear between persons with the disorder. As for the severity of the symptoms, it varies greatly. Below are the more common symptoms of ASD.
The following signs may suggest your child is at risk for ASD:
- Difficulty in eye contact
- Prefers to be alone
- Delayed language development
- Repetitive behaviors ( example: flapping, pacing, rocking and spinning)
- Lack of empathy or difficulty in relating to other people
- Repeats phrases countless times
- Difficulty in listening
- Difficulty in communicating and expressing themselves
The information shared above is not meant to diagnose your child, but if you notice these red flags, it is best to seek assistance from a healthcare provider specializing in ASD for proper evaluation of your child’s condition.
How early can you diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Signs and symptoms usually appear between 2 to 3 years of age, but in some cases symptoms show as early as 18 months old. Remember that early evaluation and intervention can improve the outcome of your child.
What are the causes of Autism?
Exact cause of Autism is still unknown, but below are the potential reasons:
- Genetics, experts believe that autism runs in the family or in the genes
- Rubella or German Measles in pregnant women
- Environmental factors such as pesticides and mercury
Treatment for Autism?
There is no known “cure” for Autism however; early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve the child’s development or potential. The goal of the treatment is not to cure ASD but to maximize your child’s functional independence and quality of life. Management of a child with autism involves multiple approaches such as:
- Behavioral training
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Medicine for added behavioral conditions like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, if needed
Remember, early screening of your child can make an enormous improvement in his development.
What are the socio – economic impacts of ASD?
You need to understand that a person with autism will require support and guidance from their parents, family or caregiver due to their limited abilities. Some may even require lifelong support depending on the severity of their disabilities.
Because of the disabilities attached to ASD, there is stigma and discrimination for some. Because of that, they may feel isolated from the society or community. The responsibility of taking care of a person with ASD is also highly demanding, emotionally and financially. The doctor’s consultation, the therapies and all programs needed for the treatment of this condition can be very expensive. Good thing, there are now non-profit organizations, family grants and government financial support that can assist you.
It is normal to have fears for your child’s future. Remember that you are not alone, and that there are social and health services that you can reach out to with your child’s condition that somehow extend some support and assistance.
How do you cope when your child is diagnosed with Autism?
It is true that all parents want nothing but the best for their child. They will do everything to make their child live a happy and healthy life and no parent will ever be prepared for the news that their child is diagnosed with Autism. It is a very frightening situation for anyone. You may feel scared and unsure of what do best for your child. Sometimes, you ask yourself how you can help as a parent.
A lot of unsolicited advice will be given and it will just confuse you. People around you may say that ASD is “incurable” and is a lifelong burden, but know that there are now treatments that can significantly make improvements in your child, in terms of the developmental and behavioral aspect. With proper care, management, love and support, your child can still learn, develop and grow – high functioning, and all.
Things you can do to help your child
Aside from the treatment plan, therapies and programs suggested by specialists, as a parent, what else can you contribute with your child’s well-being?
First, allow yourself to cry.
Yes, be sad and emotional whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself time to grieve and absorb everything. Afterwards, remember to pick yourself up. Know that you have a child that needs you and your support. If you feel that everything feels too much, open up with your partner or family, they too are there to help you in this long journey.
Learn everything you can about Autism. The more equipped you are about the disorder, the more that you can help your child improve in his condition. Ask everything that bothers you with your child’s condition to the right people, your health care provider, physicians and therapists. Research about the treatment choices available. Remind yourself that some may work or some may not and you, as the parent, knows what is best for your child.
Find a good team of specialists
The treatment and management of Autism can’t be done by a single health care provider. You may need to get in touch with several doctors and therapists.
Your presence is important
Prepare yourself for this life long journey. You as the parent will be the strongest anchor that your child can hang on to. Be strong for your child. Participate and learn from the therapies that you will bring your child to.
Ask for help
Allow yourself to take a break once in awhile. Go outside and take a walk. Let your mind and body breathe. As they say this is a lifelong journey that may exhaust and drain all that you are.. Always remind yourself that you do not have to do this alone. You can talk to and open up to your family. Ask help whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself that.