Autism Spectrum Disorders

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 15 April 2021

Table of Contents :

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorders 
  2. Social Skills
  3. Communication
  4. Patterns of Behaviour
  5. Autism Screening and Diagnosis
  6. Autism Treatments and Management

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Previously, these factors were assumed to be distinct. They are now classified as autism spectrum disorders. They contain the following:

  • Asperger’s Syndrome. These kids don’t have a problem with language; in fact, on intelligence tests, they appear to score in the average or above-average range. However, they face social difficulties and have a limited range of interests.
  • Autistic disorder. This is what the majority of people perceive when the term “autism" is used. It refers to difficulties with social interactions, communication, and play in children under the age of three.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children have normal growth for at least two years before losing some or all of their speech and social skills.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or atypical autism). Your doctor can use this word if your child exhibits certain characteristics of autism, such as delays in social and communication skills, but does not fall into any category.

Social Skills

Interacting with others is difficult for a child with ASD. Some of the most popular symptoms are issues with social skills. They will want close relationships but lack the skills to do so.

If your child is on the spectrum, they can exhibit social symptoms as early as 8 to 10 months of age. These may involve one of these:

  • By their first birthday, they haven’t responded to their name.
  • They are uninterested in playing, sharing, or conversing with others.
  • They would rather be alone.
  • Physical interaction is avoided or rejected by them.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • They don’t want to be consoled when they’re mad.
  • They are incapable of comprehending feelings, whether their own or those of others.
  • They are not allowed to hold out their arms to be picked up or walked with.


Communication

About 40% of children with autism spectrum disorders do not speak at all, and between 25% and 30% gain certain language skills during childhood but then lose them. Some children with ASD develop language skills later in life.

Most of them have communication issues, including these: 

  • Speech and language skills are delayed.
  • Singsong voice, robotic speaking voice, or flat speaking voice
  • Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
  • Problems with pronouns (for example, saying “you" instead of “I")
  • Not using or only occasionally using typical gestures (such as pointing or waving), and failing to respond to them
  • Inability to remain on track while speaking or responding to questions
  • Not understanding sarcasm or humour

Patterns of Behavior

Children with ASD can also exhibit odd behaviours or have unusual interests. Some examples of this are:

  • Hand flapping, rocking, hopping, or twirling are examples of repetitive behaviours.
  • Pacing (constant movement) and “hyper” behaviours
  • Fixations on particular events or items
  • distinct routines or rituals (and getting upset when a routine is changed, even slightly)
  • Touch, light, and sound sensitivity is extremely high.
  • Not engaging in “make-believe" play or imitating the actions of others
  • Picky eating habits
  • Clumsiness that is caused by a lack of control.
  • Excessive impulsiveness (acting without thinking)
  • Aggressive behaviour towards oneself and others
  • Attention span is limited

Autism Screening and Diagnosis

It may be challenging to obtain a conclusive diagnosis of autism. Your physician’s primary emphasis will be on behaviour and growth.

Diagnosis is typically accomplished in two stages in infants.

  • Your doctor will use a developmental screening to see if your child is on track with basic skills like listening, communicating, behaving, and moving. Experts recommend that children be tested for developmental delays at 9 months, 18 months, 24 or 30 months of age. At their 18-month and 24-month checkups, children are tested strictly for autism.
  • If these screenings reveal signs of a problem, your child would need a more thorough examination. Hearing and vision tests, as well as genetic tests, may be included. Your doctor can refer you to a developmental paediatrician or a child psychologist who specialises in autism disorders. An examination called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) may also be conducted by certain psychologists .

Speak to the doctor if you weren’t diagnosed with autism as a child but are experiencing signs or symptoms.


Autism Treatments and Management

Even if your child hasn’t been formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, certain medications can be helpful. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for these treatments for children under the age of three who are at risk of behavioural disorders.

The level of autism spectrum disorder care your child receives is determined by their unique needs. Since ASD is a continuum condition (meaning certain children have moderate symptoms and others have extreme symptoms), there are several different medications available.

They may provide a variety of treatments that assist with expression and behaviour, as well as medications that help with any medical problems associated with autism.

 

The treatments that will help your child the most will vary depending on their condition and conditions, but the aim will still be the same: to relieve symptoms and promote learning and growth.

Behavior and Communication Treatments

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In schools and clinics, ABA is often used to support the child learn positive behaviours and reduce negative ones. This method may be used to develop a variety of abilities, and there are various styles for different scenarios, such as:

  • Discrete trial training (DTT): Simple lessons and positive reinforcement are used in discrete trial testing (DTT).
  • Pivotal response training (PRT): PRT (pivotal response training) is a technique that aids in the development of motivation to learn and communicate.
  • Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI): Children under the age of five benefit from early comprehensive therapeutic training (EIBI).
  • Verbal behavior intervention (VBI): The aim of verbal behaviour intervention (VBI) is to improve language skills.

Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR). Floortime is the term for this type of therapy. That’s because it entails you sitting down on the floor for your child to interact and engage in their favourite games.

It’s designed to aid social and academic development by teaching them communication and emotional management skills.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH). Visual prompts, such as photo frames, are used in this treatment to help the child master daily skills including getting ready. Information is broken down into smaller parts so that they can absorb it more quickly.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). This is another visual-based treatment, but instead of picture cards, it uses symbols. Your child develops the ability to pose questions and interact through symbols.

Occupational Therapy. This type of care assists the child in developing social skills such as eating and dressing themselves, washing, and learning how to interact with others. The skills they acquire would allow them to live as independently as possible.

Sensory Integration Therapy. This treatment will help the child learn to cope with sensory information such as flashing lighting, certain noises, or the sensation of being touched if they are easily disturbed by it.

Medications

There is officially no treatment for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no remedy. However, certain medications may assist with symptoms such as stress, seizures, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

Medication is more successful when paired with behavioural therapy, according to studies.

The only medication licenced by the FDA for children with autism spectrum disorder is risperidone (Risperdal). It may be provided to children aged 5 to 16 years old to help them cope with irritability.

Some treatments, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety pills, or stimulants, can be used by certain doctors in some circumstances, although these are not FDA-approved for autism spectrum disorder.

Consult the child’s specialist to see if there are any medications that will help with their symptoms.

Nutrition

While experts do not prescribe any special diets for children with autism spectrum disorder, adequate feeding is critical. Parents and children with ASD can limit their food intake or try removing gluten to see whether symptoms change.

 

However, there is no evidence that excluding gluten or casein (proteins found in wheat and milk products) from their diet helps with ASD, and restricting foods like dairy may hinder proper bone growth.

Since children with autism spectrum disorder have thinner bones than children without the disorder, bone-building foods are important. To create a balanced eating plan, you may want to see a nutritionist or registered dietitian.

Sources

Referenced on 12.4.2021

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics: Pediatrics 2010. 
  2. Parker, S., Zuckerman, B., and Augustyn, M. (editors). Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: A Handbook for Primary Care, Lippincott, 2005.
  3. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5 (DSM-5).
  4. CDC: “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
  5. National Institute of Mental Health: “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
  6. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica: “Advanced parental age and autism risk in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
  7. Autism Speaks: “What Are the Symptoms of Autism?” “Treatments,” “Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).”
  8. CDC: “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
  9. National Autism Association: “Signs of Autism.”
  10. Mayo Clinic: “Autism spectrum disorder.”
  11. Autism Speaks: “Symptoms.”
  12. Parker, S., Zuckerman, B., and Augustyn, M. (editors). Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: A Handbook for Primary Care, Lippincott, 2005.
  13. Autism Research Institute: “Minimizing Risks.”
  14. Mayo Clinic: “Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevention.”
  15. CDC. “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Screening and Diagnosis for Healthcare Providers.”
  16. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “How do healthcare providers diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?”
  17. National Institute of Mental Health. “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
  18. Mayo Clinic. “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
  19. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/understanding-autism-basics  
  20. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/symptoms-of-autism 
  21. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/can-you-prevent-autism 
  22. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/how-do-doctors-diagnose-autism 
  23. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/understanding-autism-treatment 
  24. CDC: “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
  25. Mayo Clinic: “Autism spectrum disorder.”
  26. Autism Speaks: “Floortime.”
  27. NIH: “Medication Treatment” and “Nutritional Therapy.”

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