Pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) are a set of behavioral disorders that are present since early childhood. Although there is an overlap in the features of autism and PDDs, PDDs typically do not meet “all” the criteria for classical autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both PDDs and autism cause a “socially awkward child.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a behavioral disorder that includes autism or autistic disorder and other disorders:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
ASD includes disorders characterized by a delay in a child’s development specifically concerning social communication skills and verbal clues. The exact diagnosis is something that only a doctor can diagnose after proper history and blood tests.
What causes autism spectrum disorder?
What exactly causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains a mystery, and the research to find it is still going on. Until now, a combination of various factors including environmental, biological, and genetic factors is thought to make a child likely to be at risk of ASD.
The risk factors for ASD include:
- Having multiple genes concerned with the development of ASD
- Having a sibling, parent, or a near relative with ASD
- Having certain genetic or chromosomal disorders (such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis)
- Taking prescription drugs, valproic acid, and thalidomide during pregnancy
- Being born to older parents
What are the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?
Signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are noticed in childhood, most commonly around two to three years of age, and typically stay for a lifetime.
Children or adults with ASD have problems in understanding non-verbal clues and body language. They react in a specific way and want things to be in a certain way, causing social awkwardness.
Instances of how children or adults with ASD usually behave are given below:
- Delayed milestones: The child does not coo, babble, smile, and look at parents as expected even by six to nine months of age.
- They avoid eye contact.
- They might point at objects.
- They show no interest in talking with people.
- They prefer to be alone.
- They fail to express how they feel through facial expressions or words.
- They repeat the same words or sentences uttered by the people around them.
- They keep doing the same actions over and over again.
- They have trouble expressing their needs through normal sentences or gestures.
- They resist any change in routine.
- They do not like cuddling by parents or other family members.
The ASD spectrum can include:
- High functioning individuals: They are exceptionally skilled at math, art, physics. They can groom themselves and hold on to a job. They have a higher than normal IQ.
- Poor functioning individuals: They have poor intellect. They often need help with daily activities like going to the washroom, bathing, and feeding. They may also have convulsions and may need constant medicines and physiotherapy.
Normal functioning individuals with ASD: they have average intellect. With proper therapy, they can cope with the people around them, groom themselves well, and hold on to a job.
How is autism spectrum disorder diagnosed?
There are no specifics such as a blood test or imaging test (such as ultrasonography, X-ray, etc.) to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Doctors take a complete medical history, ask a few questions to the parents or guardian, and examine the child’s behavior and development to make the diagnosis.
ASD is not always a childhood diagnosis. Some people get diagnosed even when they are 18 years or older. As a result, such people fail to receive the necessary support and treatment at an early age.
What is the role of parents in the management of their child with ASD?
If parents suspect their child exhibits signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they should schedule their appointment with a doctor who is anyone from the following:
- Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development disorders)
- Child Neurologists (doctors who are specialized in treating diseases of the brain, spine, and nerves)
- Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who are trained in counseling/treating mind disorders)
At the same time, parents take the help of a program known as “Child Find evaluation.” This program offers a free evaluation of the child that can be requested by just calling the state’s public early childhood system.
If a child gets diagnosed with ASD, here is what the parents can do.
- They can collect information from various educational resources about ASD.
- They can connect with other parents of children with autism.
- They can consult the doctor for specific concerns regarding their child.
There is no cure for ASD. However, early diagnosis is very important. If caught before two years, behavioral therapy can make use of their still-developing brain to help them cope with social situations and understand body language better. Some kids may need medications to control tantrums, aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, etc.
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What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder
What are Pervasive Developmental Disorders? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/development-disorder
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