Autism is defined as a pervasive developmental disorder defined by extreme unevenness of skill development that is manifest before the age of 3 years, qualitative impairment in reciprocal social interaction and in patterns of communication and by a restricted stereotyped, repetitive, repertoire of interest and activities as well as accompanying perceptually based learning difficulties.
There are 18 Lakh families in India with a child who has 'Autism' or 'Pervasive Development Disorder'. Autism is an information processing disorder for which the causes are not known. But it is not a disease a child can catch, nor it is something one can cause or create. Autism is also called a spectrum Disorder because a child with autism will have many of the characteristics as another child with autism but they will also be affected in very different ways.
Three main areas affected by autism are:
- Child has delayed language acquisitions. He may respond to a question by repeating it immediately, may repeat certain words out of context and repeat over and over again
- He may not use conversation meaningfully and have difficulty conveying her needs such as hunger, pain
- Frequently enjoys playing alone, does not mix with other children of his age, not interested in making friends.
- The child may not look at others straight in the eye.
- She may not enjoy being cuddled or cuddling others.
- The child does not like to use 'Pretend Play'.
- The child may exhibit socially unacceptable behavior for his age such as smelling people, objects.
- The child may prepare to do certain things, the same may every time, such as taking the same route to school.
- He finds difficult to adjust to change in routine.
- May be attracted to spinning or rotating objects such as wheels, fans.
- May indulge in self stimulatory activities like spinning, rocking, flapping of objects as well as own body.
- May laugh or become upset without apparent reason.
- May show unusual responses to sensations; some may be oversensitive, other may be undersensitive.
- The child may be oblivious to danger
Training and Treatment
There have been certain techniques that have been found to work more efficiently with the children with autism. Depending on the child's difficulties, he may need a special educator, speech therapist, occupational therapist, sensory integration therapist.
A school experience: In a structured classroom setting with clear expectation and goals can greatly benefit the child. Behavior therapy (Behavior therapy means a way of teaching the child by breaking down the task and then teaching him one step at a time) is usual in developing social, language, self-help and other basic skills. Teaching self-help skills and activities of daily living (ADL) such as toilet training, bathing, eating on their own are important to achieve maximum independence.
Remember that whatever secondary complementary therapies you may do to help your child, the structured learning environment will be the backbone of his improvement. Bear in mind that parents are first and the best teacher of the child.