While we are all very well aware of the term ‘Autism’, most of us are relatively unaware of the complexities this single term entails. There are an estimated of 20 million people with autism in India, which implies that roughly 1 in every 68 have an Autism Spectrum Condition.
Understanding Children with Autism
Children with autism commonly have difficulties processing and integrating everyday sensory information such as sight, taste, sound, smell, etc. In other words, these children have unique ways of sensing and interacting with their world. While some may prefer a firm touch over a gentle one, others prefer to wear tighter clothes over loose clothes. Similarly, some children diagnosed on the autism spectrum may present with entirely different difficulties such as poor self-care behaviour or extreme likes or dislikes. Many children may even have difficulty in hearing specific sounds. These are just few examples to show the varied presentation of autism in children.
Due to these differences in processing and integrating information, these children may find difficulty in being independent and managing effective social interactions. In addition to these, they may have difficulties in motor skills, motor planning, coordination that may hamper their learning process.
What is ASD?
Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social communication and behavioural challenges. People with ASD handle information in their brain differently than other people. This is a spectrum disorder, in that it affects each person in different ways and can range from very mild to severe.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is distinguished as a characteristic triad of symptoms such as impairment in social interaction, impairment in communication and restricted interest and repetitive behaviour.
Signs and Symptoms
It is very important to identify it at early stage. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:
– Difficulty in making eye contact
– Less attention to social stimuli
– Difficulty with reciprocal social interaction
– Poor or no response to name call
– Poor comprehension of others speech and body language
– Difficulty processing sensory information
– Difficulty in interaction with peers
– Repetitive or Stereotypical behaviour such as hand flapping, head rolling, body rocking, finger gazing, etc.
Early Intervention is very critical in Autism Spectrum Disorder. The intervention programs, with appropriate strategies, help the children to deal with sensory and motor difficulties. They help the child process the sensory information correctly as well as work on the child’s social, language and communication skills, thereby allowing the child improve in self-care tasks and reduce stereotypical behaviours associated with ASD.
Therefore, it is crucial that we acknowledge and understand the child’s behavioural difficulties and initiate therapeutic intervention at the earliest. Seeking professional help would include working with a team of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and Special Educators. In addition to these, expressive art based therapists also help in overcoming socio-emotional deficits associated with ASD.