Brain nerve cells play a vital role in how information is received in the brain and processed before being transmitted to the relevant organ(s) or part(s) of the body. The cells operate in a highly organized environment that is not well understood. Any interference in the normal flow of information either to or from the brain leads to a condition or disorder in which cognitive and language developments fail. Otherwise referred to as autism, the disorder occurs early in life. You are likely to notice autism signs in the first two years of your child’s life, right from infancy or in childhood. Autism is a progressive disorder, following a steady course without any signs of regressing. In case your child is autismic, you are likely to notice that he/she has problems in communicating with a repetitive behavior.
Symptoms of Autism
- Incoherent speech – If your child develops autism in childhood, he/she becomes unable to speak coherently. Effective communication becomes a major problem. You may notice your child trying to emphasize whatever he/she has to say with unusual gestures.
- Unusual behavior – Your child is likely to exhibit repetitive behavior patterns. Pre-occupying him/herself with one particular object or TV program becomes common. In extreme cases, self-injury becomes common through unusual behavior. Biting of hands and banging the head are the most common self-injuries.
- Eating disorder – Your child is likely to exhibit unusual eating behavior. He/she may eat without any problems or refuse to do so.
- Loneliness – Autismic children tend to segregate themselves from other children, preferring instead to be on their own.
Causes of Autism
Autism as a disorder has for a long time been a subject for discussion and deliberations. Not only is the disorder clearly understood, its cause(s) are also yet to be understood. One fact is however clear; autism has a strong foundation in genetics. It is thought to occur due to gene mutations during the development of a child in the womb. Varied theories have also been expressed as possible factors that cause autism. Such include routine vaccinations. It should however be emphasized that such theories have not been qualified by any evidence. Various studies are currently underway, focusing on environmental factors as possible causes of autism. Certain foods, heavy metals, smoking, alcohol, illicit drugs and pesticides are some of the factors currently under study.
Diagnosis of Autism
Diagnosing autism is mainly undertaken through studying a child’s behavior. This encompasses a child’s social interaction, communication, repetitive behavior and incoherent speech amongst others. Varied instruments are used by pediatricians in autism diagnosis, including Autism Diagnostic Interview, Autism Diagnostic Observation and Childhood Autism Rating Scale. If symptoms indicate that your child is autismic, clinical genetics evaluation is usually undertaken to confirm the same. Clinical genetics evaluation involves chromosome tests such as fragile X testing and genotype testing. Metabolic and neuroimaging tests can also be undertaken. Most of these tests are relative new and several tests may be undertaken to confirm diagnostic results.
Treatment of Autism
There is no definite cure for autism and it is not understood how some children manage to recover from the disorder to return to normal life. The number of children who manage to recover without treatment is however very low. Autism treatment available usually aims at lessening the associated deficits and stress that families with autismic children suffer. This is normally through education and support. For autismic children, sustained special education programs, speech therapy, social skills and behavior therapy early in life have proved very helpful. Such education aims at educating them on self-care, social interaction and job skills. In extreme cases, autismic children are prescribed psychoactive or anticonvulsant medications.