Autism is a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders that appear in early childhood usually before age three.
This brain disorder, which slows down physical, locomotive and mental development in a child till adulthood, if not managed earlier, is no more a rare disorder.
In fact, a recent study by the International Society of Paediatrics states that autism affects at least one out of every 88 children globally.
The condition has no symptoms at birth but manifests few years after. It limits a person’s ability to communicate and relate to other people.
Also, adults living with autism struggle with speech and they have to be assisted to do things that other kids take for granted.
Since there are no obvious signs at birth to show if a child is autistic, early detection of this disorder in children is a big challenge for parents.
The Director and Founder, Patrick Speech School, a school for children living with autism spectrum disorders in Lagos, Mrs. Dotun Akande, states that since the number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising and there is no medical explanation as to why children are born with this disorder and how it can be prevented, parents must pay more attention to the growth and development of their children for early intervention.
Although there is no cure for this disorder, she notes, the condition can only be managed.
“ If you have a baby that is aged between 18 to 24 months, who gets upset at minor changes in the environment or does not turn at the sound of its mother’s voice and also avoids eye contact, then you must watch it. Something is wrong when the baby does not smile or respond to social cues from others, even young infants are very social. It is best to contact your doctor right away with any concerns.”
Early warning signs: Age two
Physicians say the signs of autism are more noticeable in a child’s second year.She states that an autistic child would not be able to pronounce any word by 16 months and would only be able to manage a single-word phrases by age two. In severe cases, they totally lose language skills and show no interest when adults point out objects, such as an airplane flying overhead, to get their attention.
However, at the age of three, experts say physical signs and symptoms are more obvious to help a parent understand that his/her child may have autism.
The paediatrician says that, apart from consulting a specialist, parents should also notify their children’s teachers, school authorities and neigbours on their children’s developmental challenges to avoid stigmatisation.
Adapted from Punch News.