An Overview of Autism: Behaviors and Treatment

When a baby of around two to three years does not talk like other babies of the same age group, the mother feels very much bothered. She seeks the assistance of a Developmental Pediatrician. The Developmental Pediatrician restricts his diagnosis to two problems.

� Hard of hearing
� Autism

Among these two, Autism is a more serious disorder. It is a developmental disorder of brain and it is categorized under ‘Pervasive Developmental Disorders’. The incidence of Autism world over is about 2 per 1000 population. It is 4 times more common in boys than girls. Though many researches are done on this and so many societies are there to take care of them, the cause of this mysterious disorder is yet to be found out. A recent controversy is that administration of MMR vaccine results in Autism. But there is no concrete evidence for this.

What happens in Autism?
A baby diagnosed to have Autism is normal at birth. The development also proceeds normally for the next couple of months. Before the baby attains 30 months of age the mental development falters. What causes it, nothing is known about it. Many changes are seen in the activities of the baby. The baby differs completely from other babies of same age group.

Poor Social interaction:

� The Autistic babies never interact with other persons.
� They always like to play alone.
� They never look in to the eyes of other persons. For them every one in the world including parents is like a stranger.
Language Impairment and communication problems:
� The Autistic babies hardly utter any word. Whatever they utter is usually in mono syllables.
� They have poor verbal and non verbal communication skills
� They have impaired ability to sustain a conversation

Stereotypic movements:

� The Autistic babies keep doing the same act again and again. This is called stereotypic activities. For example they may keep playing with the same doll again and again for hours together. There will no interest if some other doll is given.
� They are preoccupied with parts of their body
� They try to maintain a predictable environment

Miscellaneous symptoms:

� The Autistic babies have special interest in music and they like watching rotating or revolving objects like fans.
� They may show unusual behaviors like rocking, spinning and watching lights.
� They show tantrum like rages
� They show abnormal behaviors like scanning their hand and finger movements which indicates that they have increased sensitivity to certain stimuli.
� They show diminished responses to pain.

What to do if your baby is Autistic?
A baby is said to be Autistic if there are Language problems, poor social interaction and stereotypic activities. The baby is mostly brought to the notice of the pediatrician for the language problem and he only diagnoses it as Autism. For diagnosing Autism, all the three above said features need not be there.

There is no cure of Autism. But even then an early diagnosis is very important. Because certain interventions like special education and behavioral modification, if started early can result in some degree of improvement and the baby will be able to lead a better life. There are a number of socities in the world which provide assistance to the Autistic children and their parents so that they lead a better life.

Some of the treatment modalities include:

Pharmacotherapy:

âÂ?¢ Haloperidol – for tantrums, aggression and stereotype movements
âÂ?¢ Clomipramine – for compulsions and stereotypic movements. Usually avoided because of its toxicity on heart
âÂ?¢ Fenfluramine, Naltrexone and Clonidine – role not well defined

Psychotherapy:

This includes behavioral modification, social skills training.

Other treatment modalities include facilitated communication and auditory integration training.

TEACCH:

It is the acronym of ‘Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children’. It is the most successful educational model for autistic babies. The principles used are

� Use of measures like Childhood Autism Rating Scales(CARS)
� Enhancement of skills and acceptance by the environment of autism related deficits
� Use of interventions based on cognitive and behavioral theories
� Use of visual structures for optimal education
� Multidisciplinary training for all professionals working with autistic children

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