The diagnosis of autism in a child hits a family hard. A more nuanced understanding of the condition will help families work towards a better quality of life for themselves and their child.
By Parama Gupta
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a constellation of conditions. Children with autism usually show a reduced drive to socialise and communicate. They also exhibit difficulty in carrying on a conversation or interpreting facial cues or gestures and, find it tough to engage in group play.
Children with autism are affected by various sensory processing issues. This makes them display behaviours that are considered socially inappropriate: screaming, not complying with instructions, closing their ears, running around in circles and, flapping their hands.
Scientists are yet to put their finger on the exact cause of autism. However, there are several theories about why the brain of an autistic child appears different. Animal models of autism spectrum disorder have linked autism to genetic factors. In their study titled, ‘Deficient autophagy in microglia impairs synaptic pruning and causes social behavioral defects’, published in Molecular Psychiatry (2017), Kim et al say, "We found that deletion of atg7, which is vital for autophagy, from myeloid cell-specific lysozyme M-Cre mice resulted in social behavioral defects and repetitive behaviors, characteristic features of ASDs."
The characteristics of ASD can vary from child to child. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is because there several conditions -- Asperger's Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, etc. -- that are now considered a part of ASD. However, some common mannerisms exhibited by children with autism include:
S Dinesh, Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, SRM Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, suggests adopting the following strategies to help children with autism thrive and integrate into the mainstream:
“Parents need to maintain a positive attitude and be proactive to help their children lead a normal life. It is always better to do something rather than sit back and suffer. There are several opportunities today to train and employ children with autism.” – S Dinesh, Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, SRM Medical College Hospital and Research Centre
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