Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by challenges with social communication, and by restricted and repetitive actions that affects one’s behavior, emotions, and sensory processing in children. Often caused due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors, it largely affects the ways in which children with autism perceive, learn, think, and problem-solve. This means that some might require considerable support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some instances, be able to live entirely independently.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder referring to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive and restrictive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. Other characteristics include atypical activity and behavior patterns, for instance, challenges with transitioning from one activity to another, an excessive focus on details and unusual responses to sensory stimuli. For people with ASD, these characteristics can make life significantly challenging.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms and Signs
Signs of autism are known to emerge between the ages of 2 and 3. A disorder affecting very early brain development, some associated developmental delays can appear and be diagnosed as early as 1.5 years of age.
The development of autism is influenced by various factors, while often being accompanied by sensorial sensitivities and medical issues such as sleep disorders, seizures, or gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop.
Given that people with ASD are known to have difficulties with social interactions and using non-verbal and verbal communication in a social context, here are the top five signs that may be evident in individuals with ASD:
- Insistence on sameness in environment or routine.
- Repetitive motor and sensory (self-stimulating or “stimming”) behaviors, like hand-flapping, rocking, fidgeting with objects, or even hitting themselves.
- Making inconsistent or little eye contact.
- Having an intense, lasting interest in specific topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.
- Being more sensitive or less sensitive than is considered usual to sensory input, such as light, sound, clothing, or temperature.
People on the autism spectrum may also have several strengths, including:
- The ability to learn things in detail and remember information for longer periods of time.
- Being strong visual and auditory learners.
- Excelling in math, science, music, or art.
Symptoms of autism in adults are often tougher to diagnose as compared to children. Some symptoms of ASD in adults might overlap with symptoms of other mental health challenges, such as anxiety disorders or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Evaluation for ASD in adults may include healthcare providers having a conversation with caregivers or other family members to learn about the person’s early developmental history. This can help ensure an exact diagnosis.
Behavioral, psychological, and educational interventions
Research demonstrates that early intervention is important as proper care and services can reduce individuals’ difficulties while at the same time helping them learn new skills and build on their strengths. The healthcare needs of people with autism are complex and require a range of integrated services, which is why collaboration between the health sector and other sectors, particularly education, employment, and social care, is important.
Treatment and Prognosis
ASD affects every child in different ways, i.e. they could have unique strengths and challenges, and therefore, different treatment needs. Treatment plans are usually catered to the child and could involve multiple professionals such as a neuropsychologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or alternative therapists who have experience working with ASD. Medication may also be prescribed to treat specific symptoms to help bring down levels of irritability, aggression, hyperactivity, repetitive behavior, attention problems, anxiety, and depression. Treatments for Autism can involve a combination of Stem Cell Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral management therapy, Cognitive behavior therapy, Social Skills Therapy, early intervention and Occupational Therapy.
Of these, Stem Cell Therapy has shown some remarkable results in children with autism. Nearly 91% of individuals with autism have shown clinical improvements overall. Signs of aggressive behavior, hyperactivity, low attention span, have all shown significant improvement, along with better eye contact, communication and social skills. Stem Cell Therapy for autism can notably improve repetitive behavior, anxiety, social skills, speech and the ability to focus. Sensory Integration Therapy, on the other hand, is also used to help children to learn to use all their senses together i.e. touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. Researchers have claimed that this therapy can also significantly improve difficulties associated with autism, like challenging or repetitive behaviors.
In a nutshell, ASD is likely to be a lifelong disorder, although treatments can improve a child’s symptoms, as well as their development, health, and overall well-being. Diagnosing ASD can still be difficult since there is no specific medical test to diagnose the disorder. The child’s behavior and development need to be evaluated to make a diagnosis, and often, several children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older, even until they are adolescents or adults. To ensure increased accessibility, inclusivity, and support, actions of care need to be accompanied by actions at community and societal levels.