Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or commonly called Autism affects 1 in 100 children, according to WHO. However, it is believed that the figures may be higher as the prevalence of autism remains unknown in many low- and middle-income countries. In India, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often misunderstood and underdiagnosed owing to the lack of awareness, says Dr Suresh Birajdar, Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar.
In this article, Dr Birajdar tells you how to detect the signs of autism in children, and what to do if you suspect your child may have the condition.
Signs and symptoms of autism parents ought to know
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be termed as a complex developmental condition impacting the social communication, interactions, and behaviour of children. The symptoms of autism are failure of the child to respond to his/her name, preferring to play alone, no facial expressions or eye contact, delayed speech, inability to speak sentences or hold conversations, robot-like speech, difficulty understanding simple questions and expressing emotions or feelings. Children with autism also often appear unaware of others' feelings and avoid social interactions.
The other signs are that the child talks aggressively, is not able to recognize body postures or tone of voice, does repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand flapping or is into self-harm activities, exaggerated body language, is sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature, eats only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture. But the signs and symptoms tend to vary from person to person.
Autism screening: How it is done?
Autism screening Is the need of the hour. The doctor will ask the child about his or her behaviours at home and while interacting with other children. The aim is to detect the signs of autism. These screenings help to know if the child needs further assessment and do not replace a formal diagnosis. Parents need to be alert and if you suspect your child may have autism, please ask your child's paediatrician to recommend a screening test.
Timely intervention can help with a good prognosis. Parents should speak to even psychologists, educators, and medical professionals, for a diagnosis. The medical history of the mother's pregnancy, child's illnesses, family history of developmental disorders, family history of genetic and metabolic disorders, assessment of cognitive functioning, language skills, and even Autism-specific observational test, interview, or rating scale can help in the diagnosis. This data will help the doctor to understand the severity of the autism and recommend appropriate treatment approaches.
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Early diagnosis is crucial: Early diagnosis and intervention can help with positive outcomes and ensure support for the children with autism.