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World Autism Awareness Day: All You Need To Know About This Disorder

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 29 March 2022, Updated on - 15 April 2022

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On this World Autism Awareness Day, we have decided to celebrate the occasion by raising awareness towards the disease so that we can make life better and easier for the people affected. Statistics from the World Health Organisation reveal that autism affects about one in 160 children globally. In India, Autism is believed to affect 23 children out of every 10,000 born. Despite such a wide prevalence, many people are unaware of this condition. Every year, countries all over the world observe April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day to help raise public awareness about autism. The article below explains important aspects of autism for you in detail. 

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a diverse range of neurological and developmental conditions. The disorder usually begins in early childhood and lasts throughout an individual’s life. ASD can impact the ability of a person to perceive, learn, communicate, behave, and interact with others. It is associated with significant social, communication and behavioural challenges. While some autistic people may be able to live independently, others may require support to carry out their daily life tasks.

Symptoms of Autism 

The symptoms of autism can be broadly classified into two major types: 

1. Communication and Social Interaction

Children and adults with ASD may: 

  • Lack facial expressions
  • Not make an eye contact 
  • Be slow to respond after being called out
  • Speak with an unusual tone or rhythm
  • Find it difficult to carry out simple conversations
  • Fail to understand simple questions or directions
  • Not express emotions or feelings
  • Experience difficulty in recognizing nonverbal cues, such as understanding others’ facial expressions, body language or voice tone

2. Repetitive and Characteristic Behaviours

  • Exhibit repetitive behaviours such as repeating words or phrases, flapping arms, spinning, rocking from side to side, or running back and forth
  • Show an obsessive interest in particular topics such as numbers, details, schedules, etc
  • Focus intently on moving objects or parts of objects
  • Get upset over slight changes in a routine or schedules
  • Experience difficulty in adjusting to new environments 

What Causes Autism? 

Scientists are still unsure about the primary causes of autism. However, they suspect that certain factors are associated with an increased risk of ASD. Some of which include: 

  • Family history
  • Genetic changes (mutations)
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Being born to older parents
  • Metabolic imbalances (such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke)
  • Maternal history of viral infections
  • Exposure of the foetus to heavy metals, environmental toxins, and teratogenic medications such as valproic acid or thalidomide

Can Autism Be Cured? 

While there is no cure for autism, the treatment aims at improving and managing the symptoms. Treatment for autism usually involves:

1. Medications

The doctor may prescribe medications to manage symptoms such as repetitive behaviour, hyperactivity, irritability, aggression, anxiety, and depression. In some cases, antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to control severe behavioural issues. Anticonvulsant medicines are prescribed to treat seizures. 

2. Educational, Behavioural, and Psychological Interventions:

Therapists use highly structured and intensive training programs to: 

  • Develop social and communication skills
  • Reduce negative behaviours that affect daily functioning
  • Encourage positive behaviours and build upon strengths
  • Learn skills essential for leading an independent life

Summary

Autism is associated with a wide range of symptoms, many of which may vary across different individuals. While autism is incurable, the symptoms are manageable with the help of medications and therapies. Parents can act as co-therapists to help provide effective treatment to autistic people, thereby making them independent and improving their quality of life.

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