Mental disorders are prevalent worldwide. These mental disorders may be due to genetic and environmental factors. Some of these disorders are dementia, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychosis and developmental disorders including autism. In this article, we shall be focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also known as Autism is a condition that is related to brain development (developmental disability) affecting social interactions, communication and behaviour patterns in people. It affects how one interacts or communicates with the world. It is termed a disorder as it is a disruption of the structured functioning of the brain which means your brain works differently from everyone else. It is classified under mental disorders and developmental disabilities (this being the main characteristic). ASD is known to be life term with no cure. The only treatment available is to help ease the symptoms.
The term Spectrum means that the symptoms are not general but vary in intensity and extent meaning that it affects people differently. You will find that one can have mild symptoms and can lead a normal life whilst another can have severe symptoms and need special care for their entire life.
According to the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/what-is-autism/), autistic people may find it hard to communicate and interact with other people, to understand how other people think or feel, find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable, get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events, take longer to understand information or do or think the same things over and over again.
The symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
One can be born with ASD and signs become visible in early childhood and till old age. Main notable signs and symptoms include communication and interaction skills, a display of behavioural patterns and sensory perceptions.
Social communication and social interaction attributes associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder:
- People with ASD try as much not to stare into other people’s eyes.
- Also, children with ASD their speech and language are held back. Many children with ASD develop some speech and language skills, but it does not equate to the level of speech or language like that of other children. It is important to note that some children also lag in their speech and language but it does not mean that they have autism as they are most likely to catch up and learn the skill.
- As early as nine months children with ASD will not react to their names when they are being called out.
- When a child is growing, at nine months old you can tell if they are a happy baby or not. Children with ASD do not exhibit any facial expressions, one can not tell if they are happy or not or if they are feeling sad, get angry, or show any element of surprise.
- Playing games like finger painting, building coloured blocks should be engaging. A child with ASD is non-reciprocal as they would not attempt to play like other children.
- Children with ASD find it difficult to mingle or make friends with other children as they lack social skills and often invade the personal space of other children and in most cases result in rejection.
Behavioural Pattern Display
People with ASD tend to have undivided attention on certain things and their behavioural patterns are rather uncommon and the following behavioural patterns displayed encompasses the following:
- Children with ASD find it difficult to cope with any adjustments made. For example, when someone disrupts their order of arranged Lego blocks they get distraught.
- Often children with Autism do not change their style of playing, they do routine, what they did a day before whilst playing with dolls or toys does not change!
- They will not always eat the food offered to them as they are very choosey.
Sensory perception has to do with senses, sense of hearing, touching, seeing, sense of smell and sense of taste.
- Generally children with ASD any normal sound can be frightening for them thus they are very sensitive and upon hearing sounds they can easily be distracted.
- Children with autism may not respond well to touch where in other cases for some there is that sense of attachment and they can be clingy through hugging or completely detach themselves because of their sensitivity.
- Poor eye coordination, inability to maintain eye contact or even tracing objects precisely, looking sideways, having cross-eyed that is, eyes not looking in one direction at the same time are some of the signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Children with ASD identify their surroundings by smelling them and they can be annoyed with some scent or odours that are probably non-existent and they also smell their food before they eat. Because of a strong sense of smell autistic children will be uncomfortable in eating certain kinds of foods compared with other children in the same age range.
Who can be affected by autism spectrum disorder
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism affects any person irrespective of race, ethnicity or gender meaning that it can exist in any racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Research by CDC has also shown boys are 4 times more likely to be affected than girls. The World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that about 1 in 160 children has ASD worldwide and this figure represents an average figure as more research studies show that the cases may be higher than reported (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders).
Autism spectrum disorder treatments available
- Currently, there is no cure for autism but there is treatment. Diagnoses are performed by a team of specialists. This team may comprise speech and language pathologists, child psychologists and occupational therapists.
Speech-Language Therapy for Autism
Speech-language therapy helps people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve their abilities to speak and interact with other people. This therapy can help some people with ASD to improve their speaking abilities or verbal skills, such as correctly naming people and objects, better explaining sensations, feelings and emotions using words and sentences better, developing the rate and rhythm of speech.
Pharmaceutical treatments can help ameliorate some of the behavioural symptoms of ASD, including irritability, aggression, and self-injurious behaviour. Additionally, by medically reducing interfering or disruptive behaviours, other treatments may be more effective. Medications should be prescribed and monitored by a qualified physician.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Occupational therapy is regularly used as a treatment for the sensory integration issues associated with ASDs. It is also used to help to instil life skills that involve fine-motor movements, such as wearing clothes, using utensils, cooking, cutting with scissors, and writing. OT works to develop the individual’s quality of life and ability to engage fully in daily activities. Each occupational therapy routine is based on individual evaluations and goals. Occupational therapy for young children with ASD regularly focuses on improving sensory integration and sensorimotor issues. In older children, OT often focuses on uplifting social behaviour and increasing independence.
Physical Therapy (PT)
Physical therapy is used to enhance gross motor skills and handle sensory integration issues, in particular the ones related to the individual’s ability to experience and ability to feel and be aware of his body. Similar to OT, Physical therapy is used to enhance the person’s capacity to participate in regular activities. PT works to educate and improve abilities inclusive of strolling, sitting, coordination, and balance. Physical therapy works successfully when integrated into an early intervention program.
In conclusion, there are other methods of treating ASD that we didn’t cover in this article, but if you like to share any other information concerning ASD, please feel free to comment below