Resources for Parents
Autism is a developmental disability that affects the brain functions, specifically those areas of the brain that control communication and social interaction skills.
Children with autism have difficulty in both verbal and nonverbal communication. They exhibit difficulty in relating to the outside world and may show unusual reactions to the people around them. They are often inflexible, even obsessive in their behaviors and interests and may demonstrate aggressive behavior that might cause injury to themselves or others.
These children may have trouble processing things they hear, see, smell, touch or taste. They may also have poor eye contact, be withdrawn or socially inept. They often start talking late and have difficulty with speech and language and display repetition of same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behavior).
In autism, an early diagnosis can make a huge difference on the impact of treatment and it is imperative for parents to recognize the warning signs as early as possible in their child.
The following signs necessitate an evaluation by paediatrician without delay
- By 6 months: Absence of big smiles or any warm or joyful expressions.
- By 9 months: There is no sharing of expressions by way of sounds or facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Fails to respond to name.
- By 12 months: Absence of babbling or 'baby talk'; absence of gestures as pointing, waving, reaching etc.
- By 16 months: There are no spoken words.
- By 24 months: Absence of meaningful two-word phrases on own
Signs or symptoms which need immediate attention and consultation:
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what's going on around them.
- Doesn't know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
- Doesn't engage in pretend play or play in group games or imitate others
- Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings.
- Doesn't seem to listen or hear when others talk to him/her.
- Usually speaks in an abnormal voice tone or with an odd rhythm or pitch
- Repeats the same words or phrases over and over.
- Often responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it.
- Has trouble communicating likes, desires or needs.
- Has trouble understanding simple questions, directions or statements.
- Avoids eye contact.
- Often has difficulty in understanding other people's facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures.
- Makes very few gestures (like pointing). May appear to be cold or robot-like
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe).
- Often insists on following a rigid routine (e.g. insists on taking a specific route to school).
- Has problem adjusting to changes in schedule or environment (e.g. throws a tantrum if bedtime is at a different time than usual).
- Exhibits odd attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, bottles, light switch etc.
- May exhibit extreme restlessness, hyperactivity or extreme passivity.
- Apparent insensitivity to pain.
- Unusual behaviour or body movement such as flapping hands or rocking, self spinning and jumping.
- Sometimes may want to be hugged/touched or sometimes may express dislike or annoyance when touched.
- May not respond to normal teaching methods.
Early intervention is the most effective way to enhance child's development and overcome the challenges. An autistic child may be benefitted by:
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Play Therapy
- Social Skills Building
- Social Stories
- Improving Life skills
Speech Therapy helps in improving
- Pre-linguistic skills
- Language skills
- Social interaction skills
- Communication skills
- Nonverbal persons with autism will benefit from
- Augmentative and Alternative Communicative devices & methods (AAC)
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Occupational Therapy helps improve
- Attention span
- Reduce Hyperactivity/ Restlessness
- Gross motor skills - climbing stairs, jumping skills & body balancing
- Fine motor skills and hand functioning skills
- Handwriting skills
- Spatial awareness, visual perception & visual motor functioning
- Social skills training
- Play skills
- Help & learn activities of daily living - brushing, dressing etc.
Sensory Integration Therapy helps
- Reduce /eliminate defensive/ aversive responses to sensory experiences viz. sound, smell, touch or light
- Improve ability to maintain appropriate level of alertness & arousal for learning in a classroom setting
- Improve ability to filter and discriminate sound
- Calm themselves & relax
Special Education or Individualized Education Plan helps improve
- Learning concepts
- Academic skills
- Socialization skills
- Self-help skills