2022 World Autism Awareness Day – Spectrum, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

2022 World Autism Awareness Day – Spectrum, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

27 Apr 2022 | 12 min Read

Sayani Basu

Author | 216 Articles

April 2 is celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day and spreads awareness for the rights of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Such a condition starts during childhood and continues into adulthood.

World Autism Awareness Day celebrates the resilience of those who are affected by the disorder and supports causes that promote awareness of it. 

Since 2012, every year the UN sets a theme for the celebration of the World Autism Awareness Day. The theme for 2022 is inclusive education. It is intrinsically linked with the focus of last year’s WAAD observance, “Inclusion in the Workplace”.

Read on to get an overview of autism.

World Autism Awareness Day: History

The United Nations General Assembly declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with autism so that they can lead meaningful lives as an integral part of society.

The resolution to celebrate this day was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on November 1, 2007 and was adopted on December 18, 2007.

What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in the first few years after birth. This developmental condition is related to brain development that can affect how a person behaves, interacts, and communicates.

It also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behaviour.

Healthcare professionals have used the term ‘autism spectrum disorder’ because autism is a spectrum that refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.

Those having mild ASD are fully functional in their daily lives. While, having severe forms of ASD may require ongoing care and support for the entire lives.

Types Of Autism

The types of autism are:

  1. Asperger’s Syndrome: A person with Asperger’s syndrome might be very intelligent and able to handle his/ her daily life. He/ she might be focused on topics that interest them and continue discussing them. However, people with Asperger’s syndrome have a much harder time socially.
  1. Rett Syndrome: Rett syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder and is noticed in infancy. It mostly affects girls.

Some of the common symptoms of Rett syndrome are:

  • Loss of standard movement
  • Challenges with speech and communication
  • Breathing difficulties (in some cases)
  1. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD): Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) is also known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder and is defined by delayed onset of developmental problems in language, motor skills, or social function.

According to research, out of every 10 cases of the disorder, nine will be boys, and only one will be a girl.

  1. Kanner’s Syndrome:  Children with Kanner’s syndrome appears to be alert and intelligent.

Few underlying characteristics of the disorder are:

  • Lack of emotional attachment with others
  • Uncontrolled speech and challenges in communication and interaction
  • Deep obsession with handling objects
  • A higher degree of rote memory and visuospatial skills with major difficulties of learning
  1. Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): It is a mild type of autism that presents a range of symptoms, the most common being the challenges in social and language development.

Your doctor might use this term if your child has delays in social and communications skills, but doesn’t fit into another category.

You can identify this type of autism simply by observing the child and noting what area the little one displays a deficit in, such as interacting with others.

Autism Symptoms

A child with autism seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his/ her own world | Image Source: pexels

Here are some of the symptoms and signs of autism:

Social communication and interaction

  • Fails to respond to his/ her name
  • Resists cuddling and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into their own world
  • Lacks facial expression and has poor eye contact
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone and may use a sing-song voice or robot-like speech
  • Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use these words
  • Doesn’t bring objects to share interest
  • Doesn’t understand simple questions or directions
  • Doesn’t express emotions
  • Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being aggressive
  • Has difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues (such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice)

Patterns of behaviour

  • Performs repetitive movements, such as spinning, rocking, or hand-flapping
  • Performs activities that could cause self-harm like biting or head-banging
  • Develops specific routines and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  • Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes
  • Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the purpose or function of the object
  • Unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch
  • Fixates on an object or activity with extreme intensity or focus
  • Has specific food preferences

Causes of Autism

According to researchers, as autism has several characteristics, it might have different causes.

  • Genetics: Families that have one autistic child, have an increased risk of having another child with autism. The risk of having another affected child is estimated to be around one in 5.

Some of the genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.

  • Environmental causes: Exposure to certain environmental toxins like traffic-generated air pollution or pesticides also contribute to autism.
  • Chromosomal conditions: Chromosomal conditions like tuberous sclerosis or fragile X syndrome contribute to autism.

Risk Factors Of Autism

The risk of factors of the autistic disorder are:

Neonatal anaemia, a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells can lead the child to develop autism later in life.

  • Exposure to certain drugs and chemicals: Expecting mums who are exposed to certain drugs or chemicals, like alcohol or anti-seizure medications are at an increased risk of having autistic children. 

Certain medications taken during pregnancy like thalidomide and valproic acid also contribute to autism.

  • Being born to older parents: Research has shown that older fathers and mums (above 45 years) are at an increased risk of having a child with autism.
  • Born to mums with diabetes and obesity: Children born to mums diagnosed with diabetes and obesity are prone to this disorder.

In addition to these, babies born before 26 weeks of gestation might have a greater risk of this disorder.

Autism Diagnosis

ASD can be noticeable from birth, usually the lack of social and linguistic abilities surface after a year or two.

The sooner autism is diagnosed, the sooner you can help your little one cope with the disorder.

Diagnosis of autism involves:

  • Several screenings
  • Genetic tests
  • Evaluations

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), an austic child undergoes ASD screening at the age of 18 to 24 months.

Screening can identify ASD in children earlier. They may benefit from early diagnosis and support.

Other screening tools for autism include the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT).

The doctor might recommend a combination of tests for autism, including:

  • DNA testing for genetic diseases
  • Visual and audio tests to identify any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to ASD
  • Behavioural evaluation and occupational therapy screening

Autism Prevention

There’s no way to prevent autism. However, there are treatment options. Early diagnosis and intervention can be helpful and can improve behaviour, skills and language development of your autistic child.

Although there is no cure for autism, there are therapies that are crucial to the child’s development. | Image Source: pexels

Autism Treatment

The early diagnosis of autism would enable parents (of autistic children) to begin communication, social, and sensory therapies that are crucial to the child’s development.

Some of the therapies of autism that can be useful are:

  • Joint attention therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural and behaviour management therapies
  • Social skills training
  • Physical and speech therapies
  • Medication and educational interventions
  • Occupational and nutrition therapies

Autism Diet & Lifestyle

There is no specific autism diet. However, doctors advise a balanced diet, along with some vitamin supplementation for children with autism spectrum disorders.

It is important to have a good diet as some patients show improvement in symptoms after consuming a healthy and a balanced diet.

Some patients with autism suffer from constipation and others might develop a habit of eating non-food items like dirt or paper.

A proper diet can help reduce these autism symptoms.

Children with autism might have an allergy or high sensitivity to foods containing gluten or casein. Hence, many parents of autistic children choose the GFCF diet.

The GFCF diet eliminates all food containing gluten (found in wheat, barley, and rye) and casein (found in milk and dairy products).

It is advisable to keep a computer or a tablet away from an autistic child as research has shown that technology has worsened the symptoms of autism

In those who are already affected with it.

How Does Autism Affect Kids?

Autistic children might develop skills at different rates from other developing children.

Children with autism might interact with people in a different way from other developing children. They might not respond to their own names, or notice facial expressions.

But they often develop their own way of communicating with their parents to let them know what they want.

They prefer to stay alone, retreating into their own world.

Many autistic children develop language skills at a different rate and in a different order. They might have difficulty following instructions.

Some kids need only a little bit of help. Others might need a lot of help with learning and doing everyday stuff.

Autism Help And Checklist for Parents

Austic children are special and love to get pampered. | Image Source: pexels

Here are some autism symptoms checklist for parents to deal with an autistic child:

  1. Communication: Communication is vital to calm an autistic child as they have less control over their emotions than their typical peers.

You should speak respectfully, showing that you are listening with a calming tone.

It is important to pick non-verbal cues that autistic children use to communicate.

  1. Have a game plan: Try to have an escape plan ready so that you know what to do when anxiety strikes.

This can include counting numbers, walking away, deep breathing, watching a calming video, or reading a comforting book.

  1. Give space: Your austic child might need time for themselves.

If the child feels overstimulated, allowing them to have time to themselves can be helpful.

  1. Reinforce positive behaviour: Acknowledge the feelings of your child and praise them for good behaviour.

Try giving hugs and commend them on how they managed to do a thing well.

  1. Sensory tools: Sensory tools like stim toys, weighted lap pads, noise-cancelling headphones, and fidget toys can refocus their attention elsewhere and can calm your child down.

You can offer these sensory tools to your child when he/ she gets overwhelmed.

When To See A Doctor?

You can consult a doctor after noticing the following symptoms in your child:

  • Delayed language and movement skills
  • Unusual sleeping and eating habits
  • Unusual mood swings or emotional reactions
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive behaviour
  • Over or under-reaction to light, or sound

FAQs

Why is Autism Awareness Important?

Autism awareness is important. People should be informed of what they can expect from those on the spectrum. They should be educated and compassionate and live in a society that accepts autistic people.

How does a Child with Autism Behave?

Children with autism are often restricted, rigid, and obsessive in their behaviours, activities, and interests. Repetitive body movements like hand-flapping, rocking, spinning and moving constantly are some of the common ways an autistic behaves.

They can also have an obsessive attachment to unusual objects like rubber bands, keys and light switches.

How do you Know if your Child Has Autism?

If you notice delayed language and movement skills, delayed cognitive or learning skills, repetitive body movements like hand-flapping, rocking, spinning and their obsessive attachment to unusual objects like rubber bands, keys and light switches, you can consult a doctor.

The doctor would then recommend a combination of tests for autism, including DNA testing for genetic diseases, visual and audio tests to identify any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to ASD, behavioural evaluation and occupational therapy screening.

Is Autism a Disability?

Autism is a developmental disability and can cause significant communication and behavioural challenges. Those with mild ASD are fully functional in their daily lives. While, having severe forms of ASD requires ongoing care and support for the entire lives.

How do you Test for Autism?

There is no medical test to diagnose autism. Doctors usually look at the child’s developmental history and behaviour to make a diagnosis. 

ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger with the help of several screenings.

Can Autism Be Cured?

There is no cure for autism. However, there are treatment options that can make a difference. Although austic children usually don’t outgrow the symptoms of autism, they might learn to function well.

What are the Signs of Autism in a 2 Year Old?

A two year old child with autism might not look where others point, engage in interactive games and respond to others. The child might not be able to speak or have limited speech and have limited inventory of sounds, gestures and words.

There can also be repetitive body movements like hand-flapping, rocking, spinning and constant movement.

Although there is no preventive measure or cure for autism, there are several well-researched, effective therapies that can enhance skills, reduce anxiety, and lead to greater well-being for your child. Perhaps, the most effective therapies include early and intensive behavioural support. The earlier a child is enrolled in these programs, the better would be their outlook.

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