If you are familiar with the show ‘Atypical’, you’d already be introduced to the world of autism. The show captures the condition, or rather the range of conditions, very beautifully while stressing the fact that children with autism can lead, to quite an extent, a normal and fulfilling life and grow up to be responsible and good adults.
If you are wondering what autism is, it refers to a developmental disorder in humans and is known in the medical world as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The condition affects how a person thinks, acts, behaves or interacts with other people or the environment.
There is a range of developmental abnormalities that varies from one person to another and can vary from a difference in how they look to how they act.
When do the first signs of autism start to appear?
Typically, research shows that on average, a child will first start to show symptoms around the age of 12 to 14 months, but the range can widely vary from child to child and based on which research you are referring to.
The Centers for Disease Control have mentioned that the first signs can even appear as early as 9 months. But, the Autism Science Foundation claims that the first signs can show as early as 2 months.
What are the signs of autism in infants?
There are a number of signs and symptoms to look out for that can help you determine if your child is suffering from autism spectrum disorder, and it’s not necessary that a child will display every symptom.
- They shy away from eye contact or joint attention - It is typical for a baby to start making eye contact with people around them from as young as 2 months old. But, children who have autism often find it difficult to make and maintain eye contact. Further, joint attention refers to when a person points something out to the child and they both look at it together. Babies can learn to do this by the time they are 9 months old. But, for the ones suffering from ASD, it can be a skill they do not develop in time.
- They have difficulty with non-verbal communication - A baby without autism usually learns to point out things and copy body language by the time they are 9 months old. But, children with autism have difficulty learning gestures and non-verbal communication even by the time they are 18 months old.
- They have limited or no response, when called by their name - Research shows that babies with autism do not respond to their names even when they become 9 months old, where it is usual for children to learn to respond to their names by the time they are 6 months old.
- They have a limited array of facial expressions - It is not the case that autistic children do not feel emotions. But, in most cases, they have difficulty in communicating what they are feeling through facial expressions. Normally, a child is able to copy facial expressions by the age of 4 months, and by 6 months, they are able to recognize emotions and respond appropriately. But, this is not the case for children with autism.
- There is a delay in learning to speak - A child usually develops speech by the time they are 1 year old. They are able to respond in more than one word and also copy what others say. But autistic children take much longer to learn speech and about 40% of them do not speak at all.
Regression - About one-third of children who suffer from autism begin to lose skills they have learned as they become toddlers from infants. It is unclear why this happens but if a child begins to lose speech or eye contact skills that they previously learned, it can be an indication that they have ASD.
What causes autism?
There are a variety of reasons why autism can occur in a child and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause in most cases. However, these are some of the causes of ASD:
- Prolonged exposure to heavy pollution or toxicities like pesticides
- Certain chromosomal conditions ranging from tuberous sclerosis or fragile X syndrome
- Low weight when the baby was born
- Certain heavy medications administered during pregnancy
- A pregnancy that occurs at an older age
- If the mother suffers from diabetes, obesity or other immune disorders
- If there is a loss of oxygen that occurs during birth
How do you deal with autism in a newborn?
It can be a difficult experience for both the child and the parents if the newborn suffers from autism. Parents may be plagued with the thought that their child can never lead a normal life and it can be a cause of great anxiety.
But, there are various options out there to treat autism symptoms and help the child lead a fulfilling life. Even though it can be scary, it does not mean that one should lose all hope. So, how do you deal with ASD?
- Learn to recognize symptoms - The most important step is to learn the signs of autism and detect them early on. It is important to know what falls under the normal spectrum and if your child starts to deviate from that, it is worth looking into. The earlier they are diagnosed, the better they can be treated.
- Talk to your child’s doctor - If you fear that your child may be suffering from autism, always reach out to their pediatrician to get a formal diagnosis on the subject. If the baby truly happens to be autistic, their doctor will be able to provide you with a treatment plan that works best for that particular child.
- Consider therapy - It is very important to look into appropriate therapy options for your child with skilled therapists who specialize in dealing with autistic children. Therapy can work wonders as a long-term treatment plan and teach them valuable life skills in a safe environment, that may otherwise be difficult to learn. Do your research on the best therapists that you can reach out to.
Show your child enthusiasm - It is easy to become anxious and lose hope when you learn that your child is diagnosed with autism. But patience and understanding are of key importance when dealing with a child who is autistic. You don’t want to scare them further into their shell. Be enthusiastic and optimistic in all your communication with them. Remember that you will be their biggest support in the entire process.
The bottom line
Even though having a child diagnosed with autism is a very difficult and emotionally taxing experience, it is not the end of the world. With a little bit of care and understanding, you can formulate the plan best suited for your child’s treatment and you can ultimately help them to lead a wonderful and fulfilling life.