Though autism is rarely discussed nor acknowledged in Malawi, this disorder is very real and affects people all over the world. Below is the definition, causes, and symptoms of autism that parents need to be aware of.
What is autism?
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. According to Wikipedia, it is characterised by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. These signs all begin before a child is three years old.Ã‚Â Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organise. How this occurs is not well understood.
Autism is also a spectrum disorder (ASD). In basic terms, this means you can be a little autistic or very autistic. At one end of the spectrum is Asperger Syndrome, sometimes called The Little Professor syndrome.
At the other end of the spectrum is the disorder that is most often called classic or Kannerian autism, which often includes profound developmental delays and challenges. In between are a variety of pervasive developmental disorders including Rett Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Symptoms vary from person to person. One person with autism may be very verbal, bright and engaged while another is non-verbal, intellectually challenged and almost entirely self-absorbed.
In addition, people with autism seem to be more prone to other symptoms not listed in the diagnostic criteria. These symptoms include sensory dysfunction, sleep disorders, self-abusive behaviour and more. The only symptoms all people with autism do have in common across the spectrum are challenges, disabilities, or delays in the area of social communication.
Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:
- no babbling or pointing by age 1
- no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- no response to name
- loss of language or social skills
- poor eye contact
- excessive lining up of toys or objects
- no smiling or social responsiveness
Later indicators include:
- impaired ability to make friends with peers
- absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
- stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
- restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
- preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
- inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
What should parents do if they see these signs in their child?
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important to understand that no one or two or these symptoms alone is an indication that your child is autistic. For that reason, parents who are concerned about their child should take their concerns to their paediatrician.
Some of the issues known to cause autism include:
- Depakote, also called Valproate, an anti-seizure medication, taken during pregnancy
- Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder
- Rett syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting only females
- Tuberous sclerosis, a rare genetic disorder
- Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder
In addition to these rare, documented causes, some studies point to higher risk of autism associated with older parenthood, certain types of pollution and a variety of other issues.Ã¢â‚¬â€Www.autismabout.com