World Autism Awareness Day is observed on 2nd April every year.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. In this condition, the individual shows mild to severe difficulty in communication and interaction with other people. They also show inflexible behavior patterns, narrow interest range and sensitivity to sight, sound, taste or touch.
Facts About Autism or ASD
Autism is considered to be a common disorder in the West, however, it is also quite common in countries like India. The prevalence of this condition in India is one in 500, which clearly indicates that it is not a rare disease. It is a lifelong condition and every child with the condition is one of a kind because the symptoms can differ from person to person.
The common symptoms of autism include hesitation to speak, repetition of words, introvert-like behaviour, lack of social interaction or communication, reluctant to have eye contact, no response to calling of a name, ignorance to listen, playing alone and in his/her own world, etc. These kids may also have an obsession with certain things like toys, water bottles, bags, dresses, etc. They are also known to show repetitive behaviours such as flapping of hands, twirling or flipping an object, spinning of fingers, etc.
Symptoms of Autism/ASD
Some of the common facts about symptoms of autism include:
– Autism is difficult to diagnose before 24 months of age.
– The signs and symptoms of autism begin to appear between ages 12 to 18 months.
– Intensive medical intervention and treatment can help manage completely the symptoms of autism if diagnosed early.
– The absence or severe lack of non-verbal communication indicates the presence of autism in toddlers.
These signs generally manifest themselves as:
1. Lack Of Eye Contact
A child with autistic tendencies will avoid making eye contact with parents, caretakers and others who interact with the child on a regular basis.
– Not waving goodbyes.
– Lack of babbling or baby talk.
– Lack of response to their name, smiles or familiar voices. These children may look away even when a parent or a familiar person calls them.
– Not reaching out to be picked, not asking to be picked, Not cuddling and not responding to cuddles.
– Lack of interest in playing with others. Not understanding or following when things are pointed to.
– Not asking for help with their activities.
As these features are often considered as signs of an independent and quiet child, it is therefore important for parents to be aware that these symptoms do not mean a deeper underlying condition.
2. Inflexibility In Behavior
Autistic children are often rigid and fixed in their behavioral patterns and closed to changes in their schedule.This often manifests itself as:
– Difficulty in adjusting to new routines.
– Obsession with arranging things in a certain order.
– Repeated behavior such as rocking, moving arms and twirling in a circular motion like a fan, for example.
– Unusual interests or attachment to toys or everyday objects such as switches or keys.
3. Signs Of Social Difficulties
Children with autism exhibit many difficulties in interaction with their social peers and people in general. They usually seem to be loners and display the following characteristics:
– May seem detached and aloof or may seem unaware of things happening around them.
– May find it difficult to make friends, play or connect with others.
– Difficulty in understanding or expressing feelings.
– Aversion to being held, cuddled or touched.
– Avoiding social or group games.
4. Conversational And Language Difficulties
Autistic children tend to show abnormalities in the usage of language and may exhibit one or more of the following patterns of interaction:
– Flat or an abnormal tone of voice, repetition of words or questions, use of incorrect grammar.
– Difficulty in expressing one’s requirements or wishes.
5. Regression Of Developmental Milestones
– Any deterioration of developmental milestones is the earliest, often missed, and the surest indication of the presence of autism.
– Delayed speech or no speech at all.
If your toddler suddenly stops babbling or using language, playing social games, such as peek-a-boo, smiling or gesturing, then this should be taken seriously. Approach your pediatrician or book an appointment with a child development specialist as early as possible.
Bottomline: ASD is characterised by a wide range of symptoms that can vary in severity from person to person. This unpredictability not only presents a challenge for diagnosis but also how best to devise a course of treatment. Novel tests are needed to help the doctors in establishing an early and correct diagnosis.
1. Autism. Rehabilitation Council of India. Online.
2. Faras H, Al Ateeqi N, Tidmarsh L. Autism spectrum disorders. Ann Saudi Med. 2010 Jul-Aug;30(4):295-300.
3. Park HR, Lee JM, Moon HE, Lee DS, Kim BN, Kim J, Kim DG, Paek SH. A Short Review on the Current Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Exp Neurobiol. 2016 Feb;25(1):1-13.