Autism doubled from 2008 (500,000) to 2014 (one million). The unfortunate news is that many children, who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are undiagnosed because they come from poor families.
Experts agree that early intervention is the key to improving the quality of life of children with ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s behavior and ability to communicate and interact with others.
A child with ASD cannot be physically distinguished from a child with none. However, most kids with ASD are described as emotionally detached.
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The term ASD also now includes the following disorders that used to be diagnosed separately: Asperger’s syndrome, autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Communication and interaction
- Avoids eye contact or engages in it briefly
- Inability to speak or has speech delays
- Does not respond to questions or instructions
- Prefers solitude; shies away from physical contact such as cuddling
- Lacks facial expressions
- Appears to be unaware of being spoken to or hearing when someone is talking to them
- Does not point at objects
- Inability to begin conversations or sustain them. May start one but only to make requests
- Forgets previously learned words, sentences or skills
- Emotionally detached
- Speech either has an unusual tone (robotic) or is rhythmic (singsong pattern)
- Either passive, aggressive or unruly during social interactions
- Ability to repeat phrases verbatim though may not comprehend them
- Displays odd movements such as walking on toes or has stiff body. Has poor coordination so appears clumsy
- Adheres to routine and cannot handle any changes
- Engages in repetitive behavior: rocking, hand flapping, tapping, spinning Sometimes engages in harmful movements such as head banging
- Refuses to participate in pretend play
- Responds to sounds or smells in an unusual manner
- Constant movement
- Shows interest in thing such as spinning objects
- Picky eater
- Plays with toys in an odd manner
Some children with ASD will need assistance throughout their lives, while others are able to function on their own with little to no prompting from others and are even able to attend college. A small percentage, called savants, specialize in particular areas such as math, art or music.
Continue reading to learn about autism spectrum disorder’s causes and risk factors
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Though the causes are yet to be fully understood, there are three things that are thought to cause autism spectrum disorder:
- Genetics. Studies have found that some children have a predisposition to developing ASD. If a child’s sibling has it, for example, then chances are he may develop it as well. Other studies, on the other hand, suggest that a child may develop autism spectrum disorder after exposure to an environmental factor, which has yet to be identified.
- Environment. Research is ongoing as to whether pollutants, pregnancy complications or infections can cause ASD.
- Vaccines. Once, the vaccine for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) was thought to cause ASD. However, there have been no conclusive evidence of a link between MMR causing ASD. The medical license of the author of what is thought of as a fraudulent medical study claiming the link has been revoked.
Risk Factors of Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Gender. Males are four times more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder compared to females.
- Premature babies. Those born before 26 weeks have an increased chance of developing ASD.
- Parents’ age and age gap. A study has found that children who have teen parents, fathers who are 40 and above, and parents who have a 10-year age gap are more likely to develop ASD.
- Medical conditions. Children with particular medical conditions such as fragile X syndrome, Tourette syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and Rett syndrome are are more inclined to develop ASD.
Continue reading to learn about autism spectrum disorder’s tests, diagnosis and treatments
Tests and Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder
When symptoms for autism spectrum disorder are present, the doctor will conduct physical and neurological tests. A blood test may also be done to seek out other possible conditions that may be causing the symptoms.
If none is found, the child will be passed on to a child development specialist (pediatric neurologist, child psychologist or psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician), who will also observe speech, behavior and social skills of the child.
These, together with observations from teachers and parents, will help complete the specialist’s diagnosis. There is no particular set of tests to determine ASD.
Treatments and Drugs for Autism Spectrum Disorder
If left untreated, the social and speech skills of children with autistic spectrum disorder will not develop effectively. The number of children who recover from ASD without any help is extremely low.
There is no cure for ASD, but there are many treatments available. However the treatment that suits the child may vary from individual to the next.
- Behavior Modification – Highly structured and skill-oriented activities that are based on the patient’s needs and interests. This is carried out with a therapist and extensive caregiver.
- Communication Therapy – For patients with ASD who are unable to communicate verbally, communication therapy is used to initiate language development.
- Dietary Modifications – At times, altering the diet, digestion may be improved and food tolerances or allergies may be eliminated and therefore behavioral problems (caused by these tolerances or allergies) may decrease.
- Medication. There is no medication to treat ASD, however, it may be prescribed to help or control symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity or other symptoms that may be harmful to the child.
An autistic child can be as different or similar as a normal child, depending on how you look at him and treat him. At the end of the day, he is your child and will always be.
No amount of denial or leaving him for long hours in special needs schools will change that. It’s time for every parent to make a difference and embrace the child for who he is rather than for what he is.
Continue reading to learn about how parents can help children with autism spectrum disorder
Here are some of the best educational games for kids with autism spectrum disorder:
Singing traditional nursery rhymes accompanied with actions can go a long way in improving the language skills of kids with ASD. It will do well to sing the songs slowly and do the actions with exaggeration the first time you sing a song.
A game like Thinkfun Roll and Play, which asks kids to perform simple activities, is great for prodding kids to “moo like a cow” and “make a happy face.”
These encourage players to pay close attention to details, a skill that children with ASD need. It will serve as their foundation when trying to understand a person or a situation just from visual cues.
Matching games that feature facial expressions or emotions are then extremely beneficial in terms of a child’s social skills.
Read more: Dyslexia activities that boost reading skills without the frustration
Sequencing helps with understanding procedures and telling stories, skills that children with ASD have a hard time mastering.
Card games that ask players to put a scene in order, such as a seed that grows into a tree, provide great practice for sequencing and describing. Match It! Puzzle Games Sequencing is an example of a good sequencing game.
Pretend play builds language skills even when children are playing alone. This is because they try out words and speeches that belong to a role they are playing. When they play a role, like a waiter or a doctor, they also gain understanding and empathy of what that role entails they act accordingly.
Board games are great for all kids, not just those with autism spectrum disorder. With board games, young players learn how to follow directions and take turns.
There are board games, too, that will be extra beneficial for those with ASD such as Funny Faces, which asks kids to decode facial expressions.
Choosing the best educational games for a child, with or without ASD, does not end with just buying a toy. Other than the intrinsic benefits that play brings, time spent playing those games together will be more than beneficial for you and your child.
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