Posted on August 2, 2012

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Your two year old is sitting right next to you; you call out his name…no response; you think he’s a little lost …you call out louder…still no response; you keep increasing your pitch till you can scream no louder. Before you come to a conclusion about his hearing prowess he cocks his ears to the tune of his favourite ad zingle on TV and runs to the other room to watch it! So, he is not deaf after all!

Gradually several other traits catch your attention- unmanageable hyperactivity, never looks at anybody in the eye, delayed speech milestones, toilet training is a nightmare, he gets aggressive even in the absence of any visible provocation, pushes and hits kids particularly the harmless ones younger than him, has an inclination for obsessive compulsive behaviour, indulges in meaningless self-talking, doesn’t interact with kids of his age, is lost in his own world even amidst a crowd and when it comes to being a menace even Denice would be no match for him!

You rush to your paediatrician for an explanation he admits your child has a problem and refers you to a Child Psychologist, Child Psychiatrist, Developmental Paediatrician or a Paediatric Neurologist. Doctors feel inadequate to diagnose the problem as outright autism so they put him in a spectrum of disorders called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or the first two and half years of life. The child may look normal but may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people. ASD begins during early childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. The thinking and learning abilities of a child with ASD can vary – from gifted to severely challenged. The child may lie anywhere between mild to moderate to severe on the scale of ASD. The doc will ask you to visit him next after a series of blood tests, an EEG, MRI, BERA test for hearing and immediately take recourse to Occupational Therapy (OT), Special Education and Speech Therapy.

You are devastated. You fail to assess the extent of the crisis and while you are still baffled all the people that you know including your family members rubbish it off as an imaginary problem- “The child is too young. He’ll be okay once he grows up”. Do not succumb to that pressure. Your child is not okay. As he grows older there will be several behaviour and sensory issues that will keep trickling in. You may get confused when your child mouths a few monosyllables; he is not dumb you are relieved; you are happy that he calls out for you but then you notice that he addresses everyone else as mommy too! The therapist tells you “he has speech, you have to give him language”, meaning he can speak but he doesn’t have the words to express himself!

It may be a solace to realize that your child is not the only one. This is a fast rising disorder. The reason for it is yet to be discovered and so the cure is also on the basis of trial and error. Do not be disheartened to hear that there is no cure rather put him through intensive sessions of Occupational therapy, Speech therapy, Special Education and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Earlier the intervention quicker the integration. You cannot do this alone, the co-operation of not just the entire family but each one who comes in close contact with the child, is required. Please do not expect a miracle. Curse God, you can take the liberty to do so; bouts of frustration is also natural but do not despair. If you do, you drown taking the child with you! Remember, “That which cannot be cured must be endured”, so why not endure it with grace! For your information Bill Gates has Aspergers, a form of Autism and taking the symptoms into consideration perhaps even Albert Einstein had it too!

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