The wish of every pregnant woman is to deliver a beautiful and healthy baby, a baby who will develop into an active and productive member of society.
This is not always the case because, for one reason or the other, some babies are born with impairments that might impede either their physical, mental, emotional or social development and autism in kids is one such condition that causes stress and discomfort for children who have been diagnosed as well as their friends and family members.
What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong disability that impedes a person’s communication skills, affects how they interact with other people and how they perceive the world around them.
It is also known as an autism spectrum disorder and refers to a range of conditions marked by difficulty in developing social skills, repetitious behaviors, as well as difficulty in maintaining verbal communication.
The strength and difficulties of autism in kids differ because autism is a spectrum disorder. The manner in which they understand, think, and solve problems can range from skilled to severely challenged.
Those who are severely challenged would always need help even with the most basic task and are incapable of independent living, whereas those with higher IQs can always adjust and learn.
Causes of autism in kids
There are no known single causes of autism in kids. Given the complexness of this disorder and the fact that there are various symptoms and levels of severity, there are probably many causes.
Whatever the cause may be, studies show that genetics and the environment may play a role.
- Genetics: Several genes appear to be involved in this disorder. For some kids, autism disorder can be related to a genetic disorder, such as fragile X syndrome or Rett Syndrome. For other kids, alterations in Gene may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder or may determine the severity of symptoms. Mutation in Gene may occur spontaneously or may be inherited from parents.
- Environmental factors: Although this claim has not been proven accurate, researchers think that some environmental factors such as viral infection, medications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism in kids.
Risk factors of autism in kids
Autism in kids is found all over the world. Every year more kids are diagnosed with autism regardless of their race or nationality. However, certain factors can increase the chances of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Sex of the child: Records have shown that a boy is four times more likely to be autistic than a girl.
- Family history: A family with a history of autism is at risk of having another child with this disorder.
- Extremely preterm babies: Babies delivered before 25 weeks of pregnancy may have a greater risk of being diagnosed with this disorder.
- Parents age: Babies born to aged parents are more likely to be autistic than a baby born by younger parents.
Types of autisms
Children with this syndrome find it difficult to recognize Social cues. Those in this group can often be described as gifted because of their very high level of intelligence.
They may sometimes develop a strong obsession with a particular subject, especially those involving numbers and symbols.
Kids with Asperger’s syndrome are commonly misdiagnosed initially with obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder because of the similarities in their symptoms.
This is a continual disorder whose symptoms are identical to symptoms found in other forms of the disorder.
Such signs as repetitive arm and hand waving, problems with subtle motor skills, and retarded speech. This type of autism is seen only in girls and becomes noticeable when they reach 6 months old.
Symptoms like grinding teeth, delays in growth, shortness of breath, convulsions, and mental retardation become even more serious as they get older.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
kids with this kind of disorder seem normal in their first two years of life, displaying all the developmental abilities expected of children of their age, but they suddenly start reverting.
CDD can be particularly difficult and complicated for parents and caregivers because one day, these kids appear normal, and all of a sudden, they stop communicating. Doctors have associated this form of autism with seizure disorders.
It is also known as Classic Autistic Disorder. The signs considered the standard behaviors of an autistic child is normally exhibited by people with Kanner’s syndrome.
They have a hard time understanding and interacting with other people, have hypersensitive organs, make very little or no eye contact, and they easily get used to a particular routine.
They like being alone and seem uninterested in the world around them.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder
This is a less severe form of autism that causes developmental or social delays in children. Autistic children who fall into this group learn to adjust and cope with their challenges better than those with more severe forms of autism.
Signs and symptoms of autism in kids
Kids with autism talk and act differently from other kids of their age. They can often seem totally lost in their own world, preferring to play around with their toes or any part of their body rather than play with friends.
This is because the inability to communicate verbally is one of the primary symptoms of autism.
Something as easy as finding out what they would want for breakfast or what dress they would prefer can be an extremely difficult task. Sometimes the signs that a kid has this disorder can be evident, but other times close attention needs to be paid to minute details.
Some of the behavioral signs exhibit by kids with autism include:
Before turning 12 months
Around 6 to 12 months, the signs that a kid has this disorder can become evident. During this time, parents and caregivers would notice that the child does not attain developmental achievements required of kids of their age.
Some of the signs an autistic child display 9 during this age are:
- Inability to respond to high pitched noises
- Inability to hold on to objects
- Inability to pay attention to new faces
- They are always not interested in interactive plays
- They fail to acknowledge a parent’s smile
- As much as possible, they try not to attract attention to themselves.
They seem unable to show empathy
Kids with autism find it hard to show empathy or to understand other people’s feelings. Because of this, they may seem detached and hostile.
They do not know how to respond to delicate situations. They might laugh loud when a friend gets hurt or respond with little or no emotion to someone else’s delight or grief.
They show little or interest in their loved ones
Autism in kids might cause them to be withdrawn, showing little or no interest in Building emotional bonds with siblings, parents, or friends.
They shy away from making eye contact with people and remain on their own so that they are emotionally detached from the real world.
However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t feel pain or joy; it simply means that they do not know how to nurture or express their feelings.
You have a difficult time identifying their emotions
Different levels of autism exist; some are less severe than others and are still able to identify and express their emotions like kids of their age would do. (For instance, they may laugh when they are amused or cry when they are hurt) however, the inability to express their feelings is a typical attribute of an autistic child.
Sometimes it might also appear that they are not emotionally sensitive or that their reactions are somehow exaggerated. For instance, minor disturbances can make them very upset, and they might even cry as a result.
Maintaining repetitive routines
When engaged in activities that interest them, they usually develop limited and repetitious patterns. They pay maximum attention to whatever catches their attention and can spend a lot of time focusing on one thing or doing the same thing over and over again.
They love routine; that way, they would know what would happen at every point in time during the day.
For instance, the want to have breakfast at a particular time every day, they want to travel to school through the same route every day at a particular time, and they want to come back home every day at a particular time.
Due to their addiction to routine, making changes to their timetable can be very discomforting to them, and they may kick against it entirely.
They may have sensory problems
Sometimes, kids with autism may overreact or neglect sensory stimuli. Sometimes, they can neglect a person talking to them, even to the point that would make people wonder if they are deaf.
At other times, they might appear greatly disturbed by even the slightest noise, like the low ring tone of a phone or noise from soft whisper s.
When a noise causes discomfort to them, they respond by pressing their hands against their ear or making continual noise to overwhelm the irritating sound.
They are also very sensitive to touch and most times, hate to be touched. They may flinch at the slightest touch or even the feel of a certain cloth against their body.
They may overreact
Sometimes their actions might be inappropriate because they have a hard time controlling their feelings even in situations that seem normal.
For instance, they might start laughing loudly, screaming, or even crying when it is obvious that the situation does not call for such actions.
When they are under tension, they might become aggressive, breaking things, hurting themselves, or hurting the people around them.
They do not perceive dangerous situations as dangerous and wouldn’t see the danger of walking in the middle of a high way or on the edge of a cliff but will get scared of a teddy on the floor.
They show difficulty in speaking and understanding language
Normally, kids begin to copy the sound of people they associate with when they are about a year and a half old.
Kids with autism develop language skills much later in life, and even when they finally do, they speak with a strange tone of voice or abnormal rhythm, and they would end up repeating the same word over and over again without actually intending to say something specific.
They find it difficult to initiate or keep up with a conversation. They do not comprehend simple sentences and take everything said literally.
They do not have the ability to recognize sarcastic comments or irony, and they do not have any sense of humor. Because of these difficulties, they prefer to express themselves using non-verbal communication (the use of drawings and gestures).
Once am autistic child finds a particular activity interesting, he or she would always be found doing it.
They are often strict and obsessive in their attitudes, programs, and desires. They might perform repetitious body movements, such as constantly moving their legs, rocking back and forth, or turning in circles.
They become obsessed with things like doorknobs, switches, or even cooking spoons and use them as toys. Those of them with a high IQ are likely to be attached to a particular subject, especially those involving numbers and symbols.
They would keep everything in a particular position and wouldn’t tolerate anyone changing them. If an autistic child likes hanging his clothes upside down, you had better leave it that way if you want to avoid trouble.
They maintain a strange posture and may walk in a funny way.
They have difficulty recognizing facial expressions
They have a hard time understanding facial expressions. For instance, they do not understand that a person is wearing a smile because he or she is happy; they do not understand that their mother is frowning because they have done something wrong.
They are also not capable of reading meaning to the tone of voices.
They fail to distinguish if a person talking is happy or sad by the tone of his voice. Because they are always lost in their own world, differentiating between the real and imaginative world is an almost impossible task.
Problems with social interactions, communication, and behavior can lead to:
- Failure to learn in school
- Inability to attain self-actualization
- Employment problems
- Social isolation
- Unhealthy pressure among family and friends
- Being victimized and bullied
- Inability to live an independent life
Prevention and Treatment
Because there is no known cause of this disorder, it is hard to tell what the preventive measures might be.
Autism has no cure, but there are treatment options that are likely to improve the child’s behavior, skills, and language development. When a child is diagnosed early, early intervention can help reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the quality of life.
However, intervention is never too late at any age. Though autism is a lifelong condition, autistic kids who are receiving treatment may learn to function well.
Healthy living is also of utmost importance for these kids. Although dieting and exercise have no direct effect on the prevention or treatment of autism, it is advised that kids with autism are properly nourished at all times and are made to engage in regular fitness exercise.
Autism in kids is a very challenging condition for the kids as well as for their family members and friends. Having to take care of all their needs, especially those things they would have been able to handle themselves, can be very stressful.
Parents and caregivers should remember that autism is neither an illness nor a disease, and no child asked to be born with it. Parents of such kids should endeavour to provide all of their needs, including physical, mental, social, and emotional needs.