Autism is a neurological developmental disability that hampers normal brain development, affecting communication, social interaction, cognition, and behavior. Autism is known as a spectrum disorder because its symptoms and characteristics appear in a variety of combinations that affect children in different ways. Some children may have severe challenges and would need help while others may be able to manage their tasks independently, with less help.
Earlier, each condition ( autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified ( PDD-NOS ), and Asperger syndrome) was diagnosed separately but now, these conditions are grouped together and are called autism disorder.
Signs of Autism
The early signs of autism can be observed during the first three years of a child’s life. These signs may vary from being mild, moderate, to severe. Also, the signs may vary from one child to another and may change as the child grows. A child with severe cognitive impairment and motor skills may also develop epilepsy. However, a specific set of behaviors are indicators of the condition.
The following traits can be observed in a child during the physiological and psychological developmental phase.
Conditions that co-exist with autism:
Other conditions like mental retardation, hyperactivity, motor difficulties, seizures, learning disability, hearing or visual impairment may co-exist with autism.
Children with autism may have some of these difficulties:
The exact cause for autism is still not known but research indicates that it may occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The environmental factors could be a variety of conditions affecting brain development, which can occur before, during or soon after birth. It is also observed that any damage to the central nervous system during infancy can cause autism.
Types of Treatment-
The aim of the treatment is to target behaviors that will help the child improve their abilities to integrate into schools, develop meaningful relationships, and to increase the possibility of maintaining independent living as adults.
Treatment interventions aim to increase socially acceptable and prosocial (positive behavior intended to promote social acceptance and friendship) behavior, decrease odd behavior and improve verbal and non-verbal behavior.
Children with autism can make significant progress if the psychological intervention they receive is structured and consistent.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): One-to-one sessions are conducted to help the child develop cognitive, social, behavioral, fine motor, play, and self-help skills. The child is taught to work on structured tasks ranging from simple to complex ones. Each task is further broken into subtasks and the child is taught to learn and complete each sub-task at a time. This method uses rewards or reinforcement to help the child learn and maintain desired behaviors and skills. The child’s progress is tracked and measured. Types of ABA include:
Discrete Trial Training (DTT): This teaching method uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts and positive reinforcement is used to reward correct answers and behaviors. Incorrect answers are ignored.
Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI): A type of ABA for children younger than five or even three years.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT): Aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, monitor his own behavior, and initiate communication with others. Positive changes in these behaviors may have widespread effects on other behaviors.
Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI): Focuses on teaching language by breaking down each functional unit into subunits.
Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication Handicapped Children Method (TEACCH): This method uses skills that the child already has to enable them to become independent. Organizing the physical environment, planning a daily routine, setting clear expectations, using visual materials to communicate are effective in helping children manage daily tasks fairly independently.