Autism affects 1 in 160 children worldwide, and 1 in 500 children in India. Autism significantly affects their behavior, communication, and development in general. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) begin in childhood and persist into adolescence and adulthood. ASDs are characterized by:
Poor communication skills and repetitive behavior or restricted activities by the child
Mental retardation in children
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Depression and anxiety disorders (mainly in adulthood)
Seizures, hearing problems, gastrointestinal problems, and nutritional deficiencies
The problem with the child starts at a very early stage and continues lifelong. However, autism and autistic behavior improve with proper interventions and timely help. The hindrance in managing autistic children is due to a lack of awareness of various interventions available. Thorough evaluation every year is the most important part of the management.
The improvement in an autistic child depends on three things:
(1) Functional level of autism is the severity of core symptoms like communication skills and repetitive behavior. The higher the severity of these symptoms, the more is the need for supervision.
(2) Comorbidities of autism in the child: Diagnosing and treating the comorbidities is another important step. Approximately, three-quarters of children with ASDs are associated with another medical or psychiatric condition. This is called “comorbidity” and the conditions are called “comorbid conditions”.
Comorbid conditions can be anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (a condition in which a person has an extreme high (mania) and extreme low (depression)), Downs syndrome (a genetic disorder), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, etc.
(3) Type of intervention done and how early these interventions have been introduced: Among the various treatment modalities available, only a few have strong research backing. These are:
Functional Behavior Analysis, Relationship Developmental Intervention, and speech therapies.
Pet assisted therapy, Re-attach therapy, play therapy, and practicing mindfulness.
Nutritional supplements like Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Hearing evaluation and hearing aid if the child has auditory problems.
Specific diets like GFCF (gluten-free casein-free diets) may be required to help the gastric troubles of the child.
Psychotropic medications if the child has comorbidities like ADHD, OCD, depression, or anxiety.
Anti-epileptics may be required for seizures.
Medications to control severe repetitive behaviors or non-responding aggression or disturbing sexual behaviors.
ASDs cannot be cured. Early intervention is the key to success. The earlier the interventions are introduced in the child, the better the outcome is.
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