Giving birth to a child is the biggest blessing for a married couple. Sure, it comes with a lot of responsibilities, but it is well worth it. Giving life to a new human being and raising them up to be the pride of the family, what can be more exciting than that?
But many a times, nature messes things up a bit. Your child may be born with several disorders. But do you throw them away? Like some inanimate object?
No, you struggle harder to make them fit in, and bring them up just as you would raise a perfectly healthy child. Sure, the challenges are more difficult but it’s your duty as a parent to do right by them.
One such disorder is autism. Children having autism show complex disorders in brain development and these disorders are expressed as difficulties in communication, both verbal and non-verbal, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. There are different types of autism which are all categorized under Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is most often associated with motor coordination difficulties, intellectual disability, and inability to pay attention. Physical issues such as gastrointestinal and sleep disturbances are also seen. It has also been noticed that people with ASD often excel in music, visual skills, art and math.
Autism roots from a very early stage in brain development but the symptoms emerge as late as from the age of 2 or 3 years.
What are the main causes of Autism?
The causes of autism have only very recently been unearthed and we know now that there isn’t any one single cause for autism, as autism has its many forms. It has been seen that several infrequent genetic alterations, or mutations, as it is more commonly called, are connected with autism.
Usually, only a few of these mutations are enough to be the reason for autism, but most cases are generally reasoned by a grouping of autism risk genes and various other environmental factors influencing early stages of development of the brain.
In cases where the individual is already genetically susceptible to autism, a number of environmental stresses have been seen to heighten the risk of autism. The most prominent evidences of these risk factors covers events both before and during birth. These are listed below.
- Advanced age of both the parents at the time of conception.
- Illness of the mother during pregnancy.
- Oxygen deficiency to the baby’s brain during birth, and other such difficulties.
It should be noted that these factors don’t induce autism themselves, but these combined with genetic risk factors heighten the risk.
What are the different types of Autism?
Autism covers a range of symptoms and impairments and has been generalized as under Autism Spectrum Disorder. These disorders are expressed in various degrees of difficulties throughout the course of an individual’s life. Autism can be of the following 3 types:
- Autistic Disorder (also known as, classic autism): When we talk about autism, most people assume this. People affected by autism disorder display significant delays in understanding language. They find it quite challenging to socialize and communicate, and show unusual interests and behaviors. Many suffering from autistic disorder are often intellectually disabled too.
- Asperger Syndrome: Those having asperger syndrome often show symptoms similar to autistic disorder, but in a milder form. However, they usually don’t exhibit any intellectual or language disabilities.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS; also known as, atypical autism): Persons suffering from PDD-NOS show fewer symptoms of autistic disorder, and that too, on a much milder scale. These people can usually be diagnosed and cured.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism:
Autism develops by the age of 3 and lasts throughout an individual’s life, although it has been seen that symptoms do improve over time sometimes. A person with Autism might show the following symptoms:
- They might not respond to their name by the time they are 12 months old
- They might not show interest on objects and point at them, as little children often do, by the time they’re 14 months old.
- Children start playing pretend games by the time they’re 18 months old. Autistic children might not do so.
- They usually prefer to be alone and avoid eye contact with other people.
- Autistic children have trouble understanding other’s feelings and face difficulties expressing their own.
- They show echolalia, a condition where they keep repeating words or phrases.
- They also show delayed language and speech skills.
- Children suffering from autism become very sensitive and are easily upset by minor issues.
- And autistic person may give a completely unrelated answer to a question.
- They display obsessive interests and show unusual response to stimuli.
It is still not known very clearly what all the causes of autism are. However, it is known that there are a large number of causes for the various types of autism and include biological, genetic and environmental factors.
How to handle a child with Autism?
Bringing up a child with autism can be quite the herculean task and requires a huge amount of patience and great emotional strength from the parents. It might get really confusing for you as a parent to decide what the best help is that you can get for your child. Or you may get to learn that autism is incurable, and that might lead you to think that nothing you do will ever make a difference.
Although it is true that one doesn’t simply “grow out of” autism, there are several treatments that can help autistic children to master new skills and overcome barriers that they are faced with in the form of developmental challenges. The best thing for parents to do is to start treatment right away. Don’t wait for your child to outgrow the problem as the condition will most likely worsen. An early intervention will most definitely be rewarded with effective development and reduced symptoms much faster.
The first thing you should do as a parent is provide a safe structure for your child to grow up in. Consistency is the key. Children with autism find it difficult to adapt newly taught things and might need some time getting used to it. Raising your child in a consistent environment will help best in their learning. Learn from your child’s therapists their techniques and continue doing them at home. Having the therapy take place in more than one place is a good way of encouraging your child to carry out the same actions in different environments.
It has been noticed that children with autism perform at their best when they have a well structured routine to follow as this allows for consistency in their environment. Make sure they follow a strict schedule for meals, school, therapy and bedtime.
As a parent, you should always reward your child for good behavior and make sure they know exactly what they are being praised for. Reward them for learning a new skill or when they act appropriately. Look for a variety of ways to rewarding your child, such as giving them stickers, playing with them, etc.
Most importantly, your child should have a safe private space where they can feel safe and secure. This will help your child understand boundaries and they will also learn to be more organized. Visual clues, such as using colored tapes for marking areas that are off limits, and pictures for labeling items in the house.
You must also find ways to communicate with your child in non-verbally, as communication is the key to forming a connection with a child. Every child wants to express themselves. The problem that autistic children face is that they cannot express themselves verbally. Hence, they use non-verbal ways. You should learn to pick these up and pay attention to the sounds and facial expressions they make.
If your child throws tantrums, try to figure out the reason behind it because autistic children are often misunderstood and this hurts them greatly. Throwing a tantrum is just their way of getting your attention.
Just like any other kid, an autistic child also wants to play. Life shouldn’t be just about therapy. Schedule a fixed time for their playing when they are most alert, think of new ways to have fun together, engage your child in the game, and most importantly, don’t ever make them feel their playtime is therapeutic or educational.
It can be quite tough figuring out the best treatment for your child as there are so many different treatments available. It can get even more confusing with the conflicting recommendations from doctors and parents. When you’re working on a treatment for your child’s autism, you should bear in mind that there isn’t a single universal treatment that’ll work for everyone. It’s up to you to figure out what your child needs and making sure those needs are met with. Your involvement in the treatment program is vital for the child’s development.