Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder which affects the brain resulting developmental delay or disability. Children with Autism see the world differently. Autistic children have speech delay or no speech at all and are very sensitive to sounds, touch and certain textures. They have difficulty to express themselves and to interact socially. As other children observe and learn from adults autistic children have difficulty in imitating others. They like to stay alone engrossed in playing with their favorite toy or arranging something in the same order over and over again or flapping their hands. These features differ from one autistic child to other. Help, treatment and therapy are required by autistic children according to their needs in their individual condition.
Autism Spectrum disorder is also known as invisible disabilities it is seen in infancy and early childhood. Though we never want to believe that there is something wrong with our precious bundle of joy early knowledge of autism makes a huge difference. There are no particular indicators as the signs and symptoms since it differs in different children in different ways. When children doesn’t meet physical, mental, language and social development to typical children of same age the child has to be tested. Some possible early signs are:-
Does not babble, point or meaningfully gesture by 1 year
Does not babble, point or meaningfully gesture by 1 year
- Does not speak any word by sixteen months
- Does not combine two words by two years
- Does not respond to his/her name
- Loses language or social skills
- Avoids eye contact
- Doesn’t know how to play with toys
- Arranging toys or objects in the same way over and over
- Is attached to one particular toy
- Doesn’t smile
- Sometimes seems not to hear
- Does not imitate
Autism Treatments and Interventions
There are many treatment methods and interventions used for autism. I've listed a brief description of some of the most common treatments practiced for helping autistic children and adults.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the different approaches used to teach new skills to autistic children in social verbal behaviors and relationship building. Some ABA approaches are Discreet Trial Training which is to break down tasks into small easy steps that children can follow without difficulty, Reward System to appreciate and motivate children to respond.ABA also emphasis set up of an environment which enable and appeals our children, ABA includes teaching play skills through peer modeling. The intensive one-on-one method of ABA can be used at home and at school.
Dietary approach is one of the many areas among which research is being done regarding Autism.
Gluten and Casein free diet also known as GFCF is based on observation that Autism children easily get food allergies, yeast, gastrointestinal problems and inability to break down certain protein. Since evidence shows Autism children have deficiencies in vitamins and minerals they cannot digest gluten and casein properly. GFCF is the removal of gluten (a specific type of protein found in wheat, rye and some other grains) and removal of all casein ( a milk phosphor protein found in most dairy products) from the diet.
Gluten is found in most types of cereals and bread. There are grains which do not have gluten like wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats, soybeans, and sunflower seeds. Casein is present in milk from all mammals. It is found in dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt also present in emulsifying and binding agent in numerous processed foods.
Early Intervention means to begin treatment as soon as possible after the diagnosis of autism. Early intervention leads to better treatment. Study shows that ability to shape a child’s brain is at its maximum when the child is very young. Early diagnosis can enable proper and consistent intervention.
Floortime or DIR (Developmental Individual-Difference Relationship based) is an intensive one on one intervention where parent, therapist or teacher follow a child’s lead to their own interests and challenge the child to increase their social emotional and intellectual capacities. Floortime is focused on enhancing a child’s particular interests and motivations. Floortime helps children learn to relate, communicate and reflect. In a 20 to 30 minute long floortime session the parent, therapist or teacher gets down on the floor to interact and play with the child. These play activities include various problem solving exercises.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a treatment in which pure pressurized oxygen is given to the whole body in a hyperbaric oxygen filled chamber or tube. Hyperbaric therapy speed the development of blood vessels. It is a treatment used for air embolisms, decompression sickness, or soft tissue infections. It is the theory of some doctors that HBOT could improve symptoms of autism by increasing oxygen intake and thus reducing inflammation and lack of oxygen in the brain. HBOT is conducted in a hospital setting.
There is no medication to cure autism but there are medications used to treat specific symptoms which interferes education and create danger like self injurious behavior. Medications may be used to treat behavioral problems, attention disorders, anxiety and depression. Medication also can help increase effectiveness of other interventions. Like all medicines, medications used to treat autism, have their benefits and may have side effects also since children with Autism do not respond to medicines as typical children.
As music is something that gives positive vibes to the mind everyone prefers some sort of music. Music therapy for autism children is an application used to improve attention, coordination and interaction. It is evident that autistic children have an unusual sensitivity towards music. Music is a non verbal form of communication it reduces blood pressure, eases muscle tension and encourages physical movements. Music gives the feeling of security and peace which reduce the hypertension and depression in autistic children. Music therapy classes engage autistic children in variety of listening experiences and performances to music
Occupational therapy helps autistic children to increase their abilities to perform normal day to day routine activities. The activities involved to strengthen muscles and gain body weight balance, helps autistic children to master abilities where they lack in fine, gross and oral motor skills. Gross motor skills include catching, throwing a ball, climbing up or down and self help activities. Fine motor skills are actions like holding a pencil, coloring, drawing, writing, tying shoe laces, fastening buttons and zippers etc. Autistic children with less oral motor control are given treatment to improve oral motor skills. These children experience drooling to a later age, difficulty in chewing solid food, frowning, blowing and are common to have speech delay. Some of the equipments used for occupation therapy sessions are swings, trampolines, climbing walls, bean bags, weights etc.
Children with autism respond well to pet therapy. They have a certain bond with animals. Some autistic children can understand, feel and communicate without words which make them create an easy relationship with animals. In company of pets they feel secure and loved. It boosts their self confidence, trust and sense of responsibility. Being with their pet animal also helps them to learn to interact more socially and the violent behaviors of autistic children disappear when they play with pets. As therapies benefit in various extents to each individual autistic child, pet therapy is also more effective to some children. Different types of pets help in different ways to autistic children. Most common pet therapies are:-
Therapeutic horseback riding teaches autistic children to ride independently. Independent horseback riding is enjoyable and it also improves their posture, balance, motor skills and muscle tone.
A dog is a good companion to autistic Children. The dog not only protects and supports the child, the company of a dog make children with autism learn to reciprocate their feelings. There are special trained service dogs available as an aid for autistic children.
Dolphins have a healing effect on patients with neurological disorders. A dolphin has a positive attitude towards humans and likes to get connected. Their tender and playful nature helps children with Autism to increase their functional skills while playing with them in water.
Autism children are unable to use their senses of sight, smell, touch, sound and balance in connection with their environment. Sensory integration helps to stimulate and test all their senses. Fun and playful therapeutic activities are designed in favorable ways for the child to inhabit new behaviors and participate happily. Sensory Integration engages taking information from the senses to the brain and applying that information in functions of daily activities.
Sensory Integration therapy assess whether the child is over stimulated or under stimulated on basis of this, activities are organized to teach the child to absorb their senses better and relate them to the surrounding atmosphere.
Speech therapy helps a child to communicate verbally and nonverbally. Autistic children with speech problems have different kinds of errors in their speech. Some children do not talk at all, some children babble word like sounds, some children talk in a sing song way, some children use ‘unintelligible’ or ’ foreign’ sounding words. Some children have repetitive speech called echolalia and some children speak the words but without any expressive tone.
Autistic children need to learn how to use language in order to communicate. Speech language pathologists (SLP) who specialize in treating speech and language problems assess the autistic children with speech problem and provide interventions that help the child to form words or to communicate to express himself. The therapist may use augmentative treatment methods for non-verbal children such as sign language, electronic ”talkers,” communication boards, Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS).
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and mineral approach is used on basis that some autistic children have metabolic error which can be overcome by larger amounts of certain vitamins. Since different children various nutrients it is best to consult a nutritionist. Vitamin B6 and magnesium mixture is the most popular vitamins and mineral used for autism children it reduces Behavior problems and increase attention and eye contact. Some of the other vitamins and minerals include cod liver oil supplements, calcium and vitamins A,B1,B5,B12 and C