Discovering that your child has autism can be a life changing experience, but you don’t face this alone as millions of parents realize their child will acquire unique care and attention in a diverse world.
As a loving parent to a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) you must learn how to seamlessly overcome different life challenges you face with your child.
Let’s start with the formal definition of autism spectrum disorder
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines ASD as “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Children with ASD have a unique way they act, communicate, and learn than typically developing children. The severity of a child’s autism diagnosis ranges from mild to severe, which explains why it is termed “autism spectrum disorder.”
ASD: Symptoms and Signs
The Mayo Clinic has comprised a list of common symptoms, which surround the topics of communication and behavior that include:
- Poor eye contact; lacks facial expression
- Prefers isolation and no little or no physical contact, such as cuddling
- Lack of social skills; speech difficulties
- Repeats phrases constantly without knowing how to use them
- Unaware of others feelings
- Being disruptive; inappropriate
- Difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues
- Fascination of objects without knowing its purpose
- Intense fixation on an activity or object
- Has specific food preferences
- Sensitive to light, touch, or sounds
- Indifferent to temperature or pain
- Coordination problems; clumsiness
- Engages in self-harm, head-banging or biting
- Repetitive movements (i.e. hand flapping, rocking, spinning)
As the child develops differently, signs or symptoms of autism spectrum disorder will onset as early as 18-24 month of age. Autism Spectrum Disorder ranges from children with lower functioning skills who exhibit difficulty with verbal communication and basic socialization, and children with high functioning skills who exhibit difficulty with problem solving and socialization in groups.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to screen for ASD at 18 to 24 months with on-going observation. Within 18 to 24 months a diagnosis by a physician is considered reliable. Developmental screening consists of observation during different stages of the child’s life, from infant to early childhood. Your child’s primary pediatrician may refer the child to developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, and pediatric neurologists. The CDC states diagnosing ASD takes two steps: developmental screening and comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. The main indicators for developmental challenges would be deficits in developmental milestones. If there are delays in developmental milestones, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is needed. A comprehensive evaluation looks at the child’s behavior and development by caregiver interview and other tests that would entail hearing screening, vision screening, possible genetic screening neurological testing, and other medical testing as necessary.
Treatment for ASD
ASD is a very controversial diagnosis that still has no specific cure. The specific cause for ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder is still unknown but many studies are ongoing. Specific medication is used to ease symptoms of ASD such as irritability, aggression, repetitive behavior, anxiety, attention, and hyperactivity. A variety of therapies can be used to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder which can help the child learn appropriate life skills and communication and reduce challenging behaviors.
To Sum It All Up
Researching and gaining knowledge on ASD in collaboration with appropriate evaluation and diagnosis of your child will ease your transition. AutismSpeaks is an excellent resource to start your transition smoothly. The NIH has an Autism Spectrum Disorder Factsheet which answers many questions parents may have.