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Autism

Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of neuro developmental disorders characterized by impaired social skills, communication and behavior, which are usually recognized in the first three years of life. A range of symptoms may occur in different combinations of varying severity.

Social skills:

  • Withdrawal from social situations, avoiding eye contact or smiling, difficulty responding to their name and sometimes lack of empathy
  • As they grow older, autistic children have difficulty making friends due to their inability to sustain conversations or pick up on social cues, such as facial expressions or changes in voice tone, which normally help a person understand what others are thinking or feeling.

Communication:

  • Delay in speech development
  • Speech is characterized by a sing-song voice
  • Lack of speech in severe forms

Behavior:

  • Focus on one object for a long time
  • Engage in repetitive acts such as twirling or rocking, or self-abusive behavior such as banging their head or biting
  • Develop certain rituals or routines

Autism may sometimes co-exist with other conditions such as attention deficit disorder, learning disorders or epileptic seizures. Your child may develop anxiety or depression as a result of the condition. Autism is thought to be caused by genetic and environmental influences that affect normal brain development. Siblings of autistic children are at a higher risk of developing the disease or developmental problems.

If you recognize any developmental difficulties in your child, it is important to seek assistance. Your child’s doctor will review their symptoms and history using a questionnaire. A multidisciplinary team consisting of a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, pediatrician and speech therapist perform a thorough neurological, hearing, cognitive and language examination.

Although there is no cure for autism, your child has the potential to improve with various therapies. Early diagnosis and treatment enhances outcomes. Intensive training sessions designed to develop your child’s social and language skills may be recommended. Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat co-existing conditions such as anxiety and depression. Your family may require counseling to help cope with caring for an autistic child.

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