Please Be Patient, I Have Autism
What is Autism?
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a medical condition where individuals display repetitive and obsessive behavioral patterns. An Autist faces difficulty communicating and interacting with others, their nervous system is impaired which, in turn, affects their physical, social, emotional and overall health.
As part of the Autism disorder, patients are unable to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings and they cannot express themselves through words, facial expressions, touch, and gestures. Also, as a response to your query on what type of disability is autism, know that Autism is recognized to be a severe developmental disorder.
Besides, autism patients face problems with learning, because their skills do not develop evenly. In some cases, they are unable to communicate properly, though they may excel in maths or music or arts or memory recall.
In some children, ASD is a minor problem; in other cases, the afflicted person is rendered disabled, requiring full-time care in special facilities.
Autism in children
Autism in children becomes evident before they are 3 years old. If you as a parent sense your child is having difficulties in social communication and interaction, you should seek an appointment with your doctor and take your child for a diagnosis.
Through early recognition, autism symptoms can be reduced and the required help can be extended to aid the individual’s development and learning. Treatment options for autism include educational, behavioral and family therapies.
Nowadays, more children have come to be diagnosed with autism. Even so, the recent numbers could be greater because of advanced diagnostic methods, negating the view that more children suffer from the disorder in today’s times than the past eras.
Signs of ASD
Autism patients exhibit symptoms varying in range and severity. However, some common symptoms of ASD include:
Poor eye contact
Less interest in raging or current topics
Repeating actions and words
Sensitivity to smells, touches, and sounds that other people deem normal
Not listening to other people
Not looking at others
Feel discomforted when cuddled or held
Having problems understanding instructions, gestures, expressions and speech
Talking in robotic tones
Not able to adapt to routine changes
Seizures during their adolescent years are other symptoms of autism in children
Autism Spectrum Disorders
In recent times, several medical conditions which were earlier perceived to be separate ones have started being grouped under the category of autism spectrum disorders. These include:
Asperger’s Syndrome: Associated with social problems and not language ones.
Autistic disorder: Affects children who are below the age of 3 years whereby they find it difficult to communicate and interact with others.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: Children ailing from this disorder grow normally for 2 years, after which they lose some of their social and communication skills.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or atypical autism: The child delays in communicating or interacting with others.
Under autism spectrum therapies, the doctors advise behavior & communication approaches, medications, dietary recommendations, and alternative medicines – to list a few.
Causes and Risks Associated With ASD
The medical experts have not yet been able to ascertain why autism occurs. According to them, this disorder arises from parts of the brain that deduce and process sensory input and language.
Causes of autism
Also, autism is more commonly seen in boys than in girls. Though, people of any ethnicity, race and social background can get affected.
However, genetic considerations heighten the child’s risk of autism. Also, children having older parents have a greater risk of suffering from autism. Further, the child of a pregnant woman who is exposed to alcohol, drugs, anti-seizure medicines and alcohol has a higher risk of autism. Among other risk factors of autism, certain maternal metabolic conditions (including obesity and diabetes) are included. As of now, no scientific data supports the view that vaccinations cause autism.
Autism Screening and Diagnosis
Doctors stress on behavior and development when diagnosing a child for autism. They follow the autism spectrum disorder icd 10 criteria for diagnosing childhood autism. And the diagnosis for children is a two-stage process.
As part of the developmental screening, the doctors can ascertain whether your child has basic skills. They will study your child’s movements, behavior, speech and learning ability.
The medical community suggests screening the motor skills of children during regular check-ups every 6-9 months during their developmental years. Also, normally, children are checked for autism when they are 18 months and 24 months of age.
In the event a child displays symptoms of slow learning during their screenings, the doctors conduct a thorough evaluation. They carry out vision, hearing, genetic, among other tests.
Also, they may direct the parents to consult a specialist in autism disorders such as a child psychologist and developmental pediatrician.
The psychologists may, also, prescribe the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) test to detect autism in children.
Treatments and Therapies for Autism
For treating autism, a host of therapies are available. They range from developing communication and social skills, to reducing disturbing behavior, to managing emotional upheavals and motor skills and sensory integration troubles and food sensitivities. The various treatments and therapies for autism are discussed below.
For reducing emotional outbursts and managing anger, the doctors advise practicing mindfulness to autists.
Families have to undergo psychological counseling for resolving conflicts and communicating effectively. Also, parents of autistic children can join autism support groups which are a good way of bonding with other families having autists as their family members while getting the requisite support.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Autistic children are taught social skills by promoting good behavior.
This therapy entails modifying distressing behavior arising due to psychological conflicts.
Under sensory processing, the doctors work on the nervous system of autistic groups. They turn messages from their senses into suitable motor and behavioral reactions.
As part of animal-assisted therapy, autists work with animals for improving their overall wellbeing.
During telepractice, autism patients attend online speech therapy sessions from distant locations via Skype, webcams, and Internet technologies.
Autism Home Support Groups
For treating autism in children, parents can avail the services of autism home support groups as well. They offer in-home and personalized services to children ailing from autism.
For treating autism, the doctors may prescribe antipsychotic medications for alleviating the discomforting symptoms of some psychiatric conditions.
OCD and Autism
Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) go hand in hand. Surely, they are different conditions, yet the medical researchers perceive the overlapping of the behavioral symptoms. As such, autism and OCD patients display repetitive and compulsive behavior while getting agitated or aggressive if anybody comes in their way. Also, studies indicate autists are likely to be diagnosed with OCD later on.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is generally advised as part of their treatment plan.
Autism and Depression
As per research papers, autistic people are susceptible to depression. However, doctors are unable to detect autism depression, because autists display little facial emotion or have restricted or no speech. Simply put, they do not express how they are feeling. Thus, construing that they are depressed becomes difficult. In such cases, the doctors study whether they are displaying depression symptoms – such as changes in appetite.
Though, whether a person is suffering from autism or depression or autism and depression, they can benefit through the use of gravity or weighted blankets – they can sleep better by using weighted blankets that work on DTP mechanisms for relaxing the body and helping the body drift into deep sleep.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
When compared to your normal blanket, a weighted or autism blanket is bulkier. Small and rounded beads are stuffed in the blankets for bulking them. Other materials such as plastic pellets or real glass beads constitute the other stuffing of heavy blankets.
Weighted blankets are designed to work via DTP protocols. Similar to massage therapy, DTP facilitates the relaxation of the body and eases the body into sleep.
Weighted Blankets and Autism
Unfortunately, autism is not curable, even though treatments can help. However, keeping in mind that the medical experts opine sleeping soundly for improving your mental and physical wellbeing, they prescribe the use of gravity blankets for autism. Weighted blankets for autism are recommended for they induce relaxation in the body by applying Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), leading to deep sleep.
Heavy blankets for autism patients prove to be beneficial because they help to ground the body. Based on the concept of hugs which offer the consoling touch, gravity blankets work similarly by calming the body and restricting your movements. In a nutshell, all efforts are directed to facilitate sleep and enter the ‘deep sleep’ state.
When talking about autism and weighted blankets, an important point to note is that autism patients are sensitive when others touch them therefore, they may not be comfortable if others hug them. However, gravity blankets offer the calming effect of hugs without the touch of another person and, thus, can induce sleep in autism patients comfortably.
Another way in which gravity blankets facilitate sleep is that they stimulate the body to secrete hormones that can alleviate mood upheavals. The body releases melatonin that induces sleep and serotonin that uplifts your mood. Other hormones that improve your wellbeing and which the body secretes include oxytocin and dopamine.
What is the best weighted blanket for autism?
Weighted blankets are considered to be the best sleeping aids among the autism community. Even so, when you are shopping for a gravity blanket for your autistic child, make sure to always choose gravity blankets that are 7-12% of their total body weight – as per the doctors’ recommendation.
The weighted physical force of calming blankets compels the body to sleep while driving away all the blues of any disorders – including the physical, mental and emotional ones.
Which groups develop Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?
From the age of 3 years, ASDs normally become evident in children. However, diagnosis is initiated from 12 to 18 months onwards, or later when the child is 4 or 6 years old.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 1 in 59 children suffer from ASDs. Besides, boys are more commonly afflicted by ASDs than girls – about 3-4 times more. Some children need constant supervision while others go for higher studies and secure jobs with good support.
Also, ASDs afflict all groups – notwithstanding ethnic, racial and socioeconomic barriers.
How much progress has been made in the field of autism research?
During the previous five years, scientists were trying to discover the genes that lead to autism by studying the difference in cells of the brain of autistic patients. In various fields, they are trying to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms contributing to autism.
As a parent, how can I find out whether my child has autism?
Some symptoms of autism include facing difficulties interacting with others, along with repetitive actions and limited interests. Though, the particular symptoms vary among autism patients. If you are concerned about your child, consult your pediatrician and discuss your child’s condition and whether they should be screened for autism.
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, screening children for autism between the ages of 18-24 months is mandatory. If your pediatrician presses for further screening, they may recommend consulting a medical specialist like neurologists, psychiatrist or psychologists or developmental pediatrician.
On a concluding note, know that as per estimates, 1 in 59 children will suffer from autism spectrum disorder. Out of 59 children, the ratio is 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls. Note that no two cases of autism are similar, with the symptoms varying from person to person; hence, the condition is grouped under autism spectrum disorders.
Also, autism is not curable and early treatments are key in overcoming the varied symptoms and with greater awareness, people can improve their understanding while propelling doctors to pursue research into new treatments.
World Autism Awareness Day
Now, for spreading autism awareness, the medical fraternity commemorates World Autism Awareness Day every year. And in the year 2020, this day falls on 2nd April. The autism awareness color is blue and you can sport a blue autism awareness ribbon to mark the momentous day. In addition to an autism ribbon, you can also don blue-colored lapel pins or ribbon magnets or rubber wristbands for pledging your support.