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Autism also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects how people communicate, interact with others, and behavior in terms of self-regulation.
Autism being a spectrum disorder, each person with ASD has their own strengths and challenges. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of persons with Autism Spectrum disorder can range from gifted to severely challenged and often nothing about how children and adults with autism look that sets them apart from other people, but people with autism may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from other people. There are those people with ASD who may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Autism disorder typically appears during early childhood and is characterized by this challenges which may vary in different children with ASD;
  1. Difficulties in communication;
  • Delayed language development (Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech)
  • Loss of previously acquired speech
  • Repetitive speech (echolalia)
  • Little or no response to name
  1. Social Interactions
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Preference to be alone rather than engaging and playing with other children
  • Find it hard to have friendships.
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Not able to point at objects to show interest
  • Not looking at objects when another person points at them
  1. Self-regulatory Behavior
  • Repetitive behavior such as hand flapping, rocking
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine change
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • Highly restricted, fixated interests for example a child may have strong attachment to a particular toy or TV program

There is no known cause for autism. Research suggests that autism may be genetic. While the definitive cause or causes of autism are not clear, it is clear that autism is not caused by bad parenting.  Autism is neither caused by anything the mother did before her pregnancy, during the pregnancy or after birth.

There is no known cure for autism. But Early diagnosis and Early intervention in terms of intensive therapies can improve learning, communication and social skills, behavior as well as underlying brain development. 

It’s good to note that Each person with autism is different, and an intervention which works well with one person may not be appropriate or effective with another.

Professionals involved in Autism Diagnosis

  • Medical Officer – /Psychiatrist if available
  • Mental Health Nurse/Clinical Officer Psychiatrist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Medical Social Worker
  • Psychologist
  • Speech pathologist

The role of the physiotherapist is to take care of autistic children with motor impairments in the body (for instance; coordination level, improvement in posture, and addressing misalignment in the musculoskeletal system including chest wall deformities as well as foot and ankle misalignment issues.

Physiotherapy therapy is provided by physiotherapists therapists who can help the autistic people to:

  • Engage and improve in daily routines at home and school.
  • Acquire new movement skills.
  • Develop better coordination and a more stable posture.
  • Improve play skills, such as throwing and catching a ball with another person.
  • Develop motor imitation skills through learning to copy others
  • Increase fitness and stamina.

Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, but not exhaustive;)

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  • Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  • Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text)

  1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up of toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  • Insistence on sameness, inflexibility, adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food everyday day).
  • Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
  • Hyper- or hypo- activity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life). 

  1. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  2. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequency co-occur; to make co-morbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

The first years of life are essential to establish the future foundation of a person´s productivity and wellbeing and early identification can help foster stimulating environments where families, health-care, and education professionals are better prepared to support the development, inclusion, and active participation of children with ASD. therefore, enabling timely, effective and adequate access to specialized care, and therapies where needed

Providing intensive early intervention is critical to maximizing outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and research suggests that the earlier intervention can begin, the better the outcome

Parenting is a difficult task and being a parent of child with ASD is challenging. Parents may face many challenges because of child behavior and lack of awareness about Autism. This may have a great psychological effect on parent and therefore its quite important for Parents to undergo counselling and training on how to help their child with ASD.

Impact of counseling on parents will be that they are able to recognize the needs of their child and provide better care, emotionally and physically function better, strong relationship, and better family for children. Through counseling parents will be able to manage their children with ASD.

Occupational Therapy helps to promote skills for independent living in people with autism by helping them work on physical, cognitive, social, and motor skills.

Occupational Therapist works to develop some of these skills of daily living in many children with autism and persons with autism;

  • Eating
  • Grooming, Brushing teeth and Independent dressing
  • Toilet training
  • Fine motor skills like handwriting, coloring, and painting

Other areas that Occupational Therapist do assess and target is the child’s sensory integration therapy, which aims to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information which includes things you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch so that the child will function better in his/her daily activities.

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