AUTISM

What you need to know about autism

In Summary

• April 2 is World Autism Day

• Autism is a neuro-development disorder that impacts the ability of an individual to interact and communicate with others.

Most children suffering from autism cannot maintain eye contact when greeted and find it difficult to play with others. / WIRE
Most children suffering from autism cannot maintain eye contact when greeted and find it difficult to play with others. / WIRE

Today is World Autism Day and here is all you need to know about the condition:

The United Nations marked April 2 as World Autism Day, urging its member states to take action in raising awareness about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What is ASD?

It is a neuro-development disorder that impacts the ability of an individual to interact and communicate with others. They often display restricted or repetitive behaviors.  

Autism was described by Dr Leo Kanner in 1943, after he conducted a study on 11 children who showed a lack of interest in other people, but a great interest in the inanimate environment.

While there isn’t a given set of statistics in Kenya, autism is said to impact 1 in 59 children worldwide.

What are the symptoms of ASD?

Children with autism tend to avoid displays of affection, and prefer to play alone. Those that are under the age of three, fail to respond to their own name, have a disinterest in giving or sharing.

An older child tends to have a limited understanding of others’ emotions or the basic meaning of social relationships.

A child with autism usually takes longer to speak. They either haven’t spoken a word in the first 18 months of their life, or find it difficult to string together phrases by the age of two.

They usually speak in either a robotic manner or an exaggerated singsong.

They tend to have limited eye contact, or have a limited use of gestures to communicate a need or to describe something.

Children with ASD also display restrictive or repetitive behaviors which can include, repeating various actions and rituals. They tend to fixate on minute details and are troubled by a change in their routine.

They tend to put toys in order instead of playing with them, and have a specific topic or object that consumes their interests.

What causes Autism?

While the cause of autism isn’t known, scientists have determined that it is a genetically based condition. So if an identical twin has autism, it is likely that the other twin will be diagnosed with it.

In the early 2000s, there was a belief that vaccines may have caused it, but this has been disproved by scientists.

Are they any treatments?

Scientists have said that the earlier ASD is diagnosed, the more beneficial it will be for the child.  The most effective treatments, however, include applied behavioral analysis as well as occupational, speech and physical therapy.

Autism doesn’t have a cure as yet, and individuals with ASD will require support and services throughout their lives.