Autism is a condition characterized by behavior that’s different compared to other people’s. As a result, autistic babies need special care and parenting.
Raising a child with the condition presents unique challenges that few understand. Therefore, as a parent of a child with autism, you have a lot to learn about the disorder to understand and support your child. The condition is lifelong and affects individuals differently, and it is diagnosed either soon after birth or during early childhood. Below are some of the facts you need to know about autism.
Features and Diagnosis of Autism
Individuals with the condition exhibit a spectrum of characteristics that help to diagnose the disorder. Such characteristics include the following:
- Doing or thinking about the same things repeatedly, such as repeating phrases, making movements like hand flapping and having powerful interests;
- Having troubled communication and difficulties in maintaining interpersonal relationships, as well as general social interaction; some individuals may even be nonverbal or have inconsistent speech patterns.
- Being anxious and distressed by situations and social happenings that are not familiar; overly interested, or obsessed, with specific items or part of an item like a toy or particular part of the toy.
Ultimately, the disorder affects perception and socialization with others, often leading to troubling social interaction and communication among those with autism. However, diagnosis of autism is not easy since the symptoms and severity of the disorder vary widely. In addition, there is no known specific medical test to determine the condition conclusively. Therefore, diagnosis is based on evaluation by a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of this condition can manifest at different times in a child’s development and in all manner of ways. Some children manifest symptoms from the onset of infancy, yet in others, the symptoms occur as late as two years. Furthermore, each child will show a distinct mix of symptoms ranging in severity. Therefore, there is no set of symptoms for autism common to all children. The child may show the following signs:
- doesn’t respond to his or her name when called and even appears not to hear
- may be withdrawn, preferring to play solitarily, and he or she may show resistance to physical affection or being held
- seems to have a lack of understanding of simple questions and instructions
- approaches social interaction inaptly by being hostile, impulsive or disorderly
- has difficulty distinguishing nonverbal cues such as interpretation of facial expressions and voice tone
- may either not speak or demonstrate delayed speech
- engages in activities that may result in self-harm, like biting
- has poor coordination and unusual movement patterns
- tends to be captivated by items even without understanding much about them.
Prevention and Treatment Options
Regrettably, there is no known cure for autism. However, early intervention in reducing autism symptoms can help meet your child’s needs. One of the options is behavior and communication therapy. You can enroll your child in programs that enhance their communication skills and the way they conduct themselves in social situations.
Educational therapy is another treatment option for children with autism. Usually, children with autism show remarkably good responses to well-structured educational programs. A team of specialists develops such programs to incorporate a wide range of activities. As a result, it helps improve the children’s social, behavioral and communication skills. Furthermore, such personalized behavioral interventions have been shown to have a positive effect on the children.
Family therapies also offer a great treatment option. As parents, you need to learn new ways of playing and interacting with your child. Through these ways, you will enhance the child’s social interaction and communication skills. Ultimately, you will manage the child’s non-typical behaviors and impart to them the life skills they need.
Parents of children with autism need a proper understanding of the condition to plan for their child’s future. Furthermore, their child most likely will require some support throughout life. Therefore, parents should be emotionally prepared to accept their child’s uniqueness and never give up on helping their child reach their full potential.