Autistic Spectrum Disorder – Are you well aware of it?
Did you know that 1 in every 93 kids in the South Asian region is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) every year? In the Sri Lankan context too, the situation is more or less the same and this is why you as a parent ought to know everything about this condition.
So, let’s get started!
What does ASD mean?
Simply put, it’s a developmental disability that causes challenges in the social, communicational, and behavioural patterns of children. These children may show differences in the way they interact with each other and communicate, and because of the same reason, their problem-solving skills and thinking capacities may also vary quite significantly.
Who gets ASD?
According to global research, ASD conditions are more common among boys than among girls. In Sri Lanka too, this condition is the same and there are no racial, economic, or social barriers to this. There are multiple reasons for ASD and they can be categorised into biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
- If a child has a sibling with ASD, it is proven that there is a high risk of this kid too having ASD
- If a child is born to older parents, there is a risk of the kid having ASD
- If mothers (during pregnancy) get exposed to Valproic Acid and Thalidomide, there is a higher likelihood of the kid having ASD
However, it should be noted that these reasons can also vary from one case to another.
Its symptoms and signs?
These signs mainly fall under the 3 categories namely- social, communicational, and emotional. These symptoms that start in early childhood normally last throughout the life of the child, and these signs can sometimes greatly differ from one child to another.
However, the common symptoms can be listed as below:
- Not pointing at objects as a sign of showing interest
- Not being able to look at objects when someone else points at them
- Lack of interest in other people (not wanting to associate with other people)
- Not having direct eye contact
- Not being able to express their feelings
- Not preferring to be cuddled or held
- Repeating words and phrases that are said to them
- Repeating the same action again and again
- Feeling uncomfortable when a specific routine change happens
- Having unusual responses to different stimuli (fragrances, tastes, sights, and sounds)
- Losing skills, they initially had (discontinuing singing nursery rhymes, etc)
How to diagnose this condition?
Did you know that there’s no medical test to diagnose ASD? In the general context, doctors observe the behavioural patterns of the children and then make the diagnosis. In most cases, ASD can be detected at around 18 months. However, since early diagnosis is not something that’s happening in Sri Lanka quite commonly, many kids get deprived of the opportunity of gaining help at early stages.
Once diagnosed, what’s next?
One truth that we can’t deny is that there’s no cure for ASD yet! But, once diagnosed at an early stage, these kids can undergo early intervention treatment services and these treatments can do miracles when it comes to improving child development.
These treatment services can include many therapies such as talking, walking, and interacting with others. So, if you think your child shows symptoms of a development problem, make sure you talk to your doctor without any delay. Then, you can visit a Development Paediatrician, Child Neurologist or a Child Psychologist as per the opinion given to you by your child’s doctor.
(Published as a part of the Special Awareness campaign by Velona Cuddles for the World Autism Awareness Day 2022)