Can you be a little autistic?
No, there is no such thing as being a little autistic. Many people may show some characteristics of autism from time to time. This may include avoiding bright lights and noises, preferring to be alone and being rigid about rules. This does not make them autistic.
However, a person can be mildly autistic. Mildly autistic people are unable to understand the body language or emotions (sarcasm, pain and anger) of the people around them. However, they have normal intelligence and can carry their day-to-day activities.
What is autism?
Autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects the ability of a person to interact at a social level. It is a developmental disorder that starts early in life and manifests as repeated and restricted patterns of behavior or interest. The brain of an autistic person does not process the sound, sight and smell like an average person’s brain. This causes them to have mannerisms such as poor speech, anger issues and certain repetitive behaviors (picking skin, twirling and neck movements).
Autism is diagnosed in childhood at around two years of age. The main symptom is that the child has delayed milestones (neck holding, cooing, babbling, smiling and grasping are not seen at the expected age).
Low-functioning autism is a condition where mental retardation may be seen along with autism symptoms. Such people need help with day-to-day chores such as bathing and feeding.
High-functioning autism is a condition where the person can independently perform their routine chores and has normal intelligence. Some high-functioning autistic people have a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) and are extremely skilled at painting, math, art, etc.
What are the causes of autism?
The exact cause of autism is still under research, although the following factors predispose an individual to the development of autism
- Gender: Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls.
- Children born to older parents are at high risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- ASD is often seen if a parent or sibling suffers from autistic disorders.
- Genes: People suffering from genetic diseases such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis have a higher risk of ASD.
- Medication: Certain drugs such as valproic acid and thalidomide taken by the mother during pregnancy may cause the development of autistic characteristics in the child.
It must be noted that autism is not contagious. It does not spread by playing with or having contact with an affected child. Additionally, there is no relationship between vaccinations and autism development.
What are the warning signs of autism?
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is used to diagnose and classify autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Symptoms of autism in a child less than two years old are as follows
- Not babbling by four months
- Not interested in games such as peek-a-boo
- Not smiling at five months
- Upset by loud noises
- Throwing tantrums
- Not responding to name by 12 months
- Not pointing to distant object by 14 months
Symptoms of autism in a child around five years
- Avoiding eye contact
- Delayed speech development (unable to form sentences or name shapes)
- Upset by minor changes in routine
- Unexpected reaction to normal sound, taste, sight, smell and touch
- Stimming: These are self-stimulated, repetitive behaviors seen in children who suffer from autistic disorders. These include constant rocking movements, flapping hands and blinking.
- Happy to play alone
- Regression of milestones: 25% to 30% of children develop language skills at a proper age and then lose them. This loss of speech and social skills in a child is called a regression of milestones.
Symptoms of autism in an adult
- Difficulty in interacting with other people.
- Unable to pick up on body language and emotional subtext in conversations.
- Avoid eye contact while speaking.
- Extreme anxiety in various social situations.
- They may make friends but are unable to maintain friendships or relations.
- Extreme distress at even a minor change in routine.
- Stubborn adherence to rules.
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Is there a cure for autism?
No, currently autism has no cure. Early intervention during the preschool years can help the child manage their behavioral issues.
Treatment options include
- Behavioral therapy: This focuses on reducing problem behaviors. Children are taught how to behave in social situations and communicate better with others. It also involves counseling the parents and teaching them ways to reach out to their child.
- Educational therapies: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs consist of various activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Speech therapy to improve communication skills, occupational therapy to teach activities of daily living and physical therapy to improve movement and balance may be beneficial.
- Medications: Specific medications can help control symptoms such as hyperactivity, extreme anxiety and severe behavioral issues. Some kids may also have medical issues, such as epilepsy, poor sleep and constipation that need medical management.
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