How Is Autism Diagnosed
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or Autism, is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour in children. Symptoms of autism may show up during the first two years of childhood. Different autistic children may show different types of symptoms. Although Autism is a lifelong disorder, restorative treatments can help to improve the life of a child.
Signs and Symptoms
Autistic people have difficulty in communication and social interaction, show restricted interests, and display repetitive behaviours. People with ASD make inconsistent eye contact, rarely share activities, respond slowly, have facial expressions, gestures, and movements different from speech, have an unusual voice tone and have difficulty in comprehending others.
Restrictive / Repetitive Behaviour
People with ASD have unusual, repetitive behaviours. They often repeat words or phrases, may show intense interest and focus on certain topics, easily get upset by routine changes, and are less responsive to sensory input.
Autistic people may also experience irritability and sleep problems. Despite many challenges, autistic people may show remarkable abilities such as the ability to learn and remember details, being strong auditory and visual learners, and excellent performers in some disciplines.
Causes and Risk Factors
Research reveals that genetic transformations may lead to ASD. Some risk factors may include low birth weight, older parents, an autistic sibling, and certain genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, and fragile X syndrome.
How Is Autism Diagnosed
Diagnosing Young Children
ASD can be diagnosed in young children by a two-stage process. The first step involves general developmental screening and well-child check-ups by a paediatrician or health care provider. The second evaluation involves a team including a developmental paediatrician, a neuropsychologist, a child psychologist, and a speech-language pathologist to check the language abilities, cognitive skills, and age-appropriate skills.
Diagnosing Adolescents And Older Children
In older school-going children, ASD symptoms are often first observed by parents and teachers. An initial evaluation by the special education team of the school may follow next. The children are sent to primary health care providers for further evaluation.
Diagnosis in Adults
In adults, some symptoms of Autism may overlap with other mental-health disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety. Adults showing signs of ASD must consult a doctor for an ASD evaluation. The doctor can evaluate the adults for challenges in communication and social interaction, sensory issues, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviours.
Treatments and Therapies
Treatment follows after diagnosis. An early treatment is important to help autistic people learn new skills. Although, there no single best recommended treatment for ASD. A patient has to work closely with the healthcare professional to find an appropriate treatment program.
A doctor may recommend medication for treating some common ASD symptoms. Medications are generally provided to help reduce irritability, aggression, hyperactivity, repetitive behaviour, attention problem, anxiety, and depression.
Educational, Behavioural, and Psychological Therapy
Specialized educational, behavioural, and psychological therapy may involve skill-building interventions. These highly-structured, intensive programs may involve parents and siblings as well. These programs help autistic people in learning life-skills to live independently, building strength, reducing challenging behaviours., and learning social, language, and communication skills.
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