Autism no cure but care


18 months old Wasif, had not started even to babble yet. He was first child of Nadia. With each passing day, she was getting painfully aware of poor responses of her baby. “I was getting desperate to hear mama from his mouth”. She thought her child cannot hear. It was not until; she took him to a pediatrician, where a horrible new awaiting for her that the child was suffering from autism. His senses worked well but his brain was not able to process the information and initiate a response.
Autism spectrum disorder is a complex neurodevelopment disorder. According to Dr Azeem Maqsood, a pediatrician at Maqsood Medical Center, Faisalabad, in autism nerve cell communication is very slow and faulty and this affects information processing ability of the brain. “It is called autism spectrum, because it covers a wide range of symptoms”.
Autism symptoms become noticeable as a child becomes six months old and manifests fully as child reaches two to three years age. Symptoms include self-indulgence, faulty verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behavior (it can be repetition of a single word, phrase or activity). “They become obsessed and preoccupied with a single idea or activity”, Says Dr Azeem.
Other symptoms are uneasy movements, continuously rocking body or flapping their hands most of the time. Physical symptoms include gastrointestinal disorder, and sleep disorders. Infants show less attention to their name and smile less often. They avoid eye contact. “Autistictoddlers do not point at things, and as he matures his emotional response is very low or absent”. Autistic children prefer to be alone.  They feel difficult to interact socially and make friends. Aggression is also common they can suddenly poke their own eye or other person’s eye. Bite, pinch or bang their head at flash. “Autistic children vocabulary is limited, their word stock is narrow, and they speak flat like robots”. They feel difficult to comprehend the situation and responding to it. They often do not feel the danger.
The reasons of autism are still not known fully. Researches have proved genetics involved. Environmental factors can also be responsible for it. According to dr Azeem,environmental factors do not cause autism but they can provide triggers to genetic mutation, which can lead to autism. “Environmental factors include allergies, pollution, insecticides, pesticides, infectious diseases, drugs, alcohol and stress”.  Autism is caused by faulty early brain development. “Illness, infection, malnutrition and oxygen deprivation to baby brain during pregnancy or at birth can cause the disease”. Diabetes and heart disease during pregnancy can also cause autism.
Earlier diagnosis can help autistic children to live a better life which is done by simply observing the child. Pediatrician often interacts with child to check his responses and cognitive abilities. “If the child does not respond to his name, or does not babble, make gestures and start pointing at things by the age of 12 months then he should be taken to doctor immediately”, says Dr Azeem.
Treatment of autism focuses on improving quality of life for autistic children. There is no cure but by improving the symptoms autistic children can function well and can manage to live independently. Pediatricians, psychologists, speech therapists and special education teachers can help such children a lot more than general physician.
According to Dr Asma Bajwa , a psychologist at District Headquarter Hospital, Faisalabad, there is speech therapy which helps child to communicate verbally. “Then there are functional and occupational therapies in which autistic child are taught to care for him and to carry out his personal occupations”. Behavior therapy is also very helpful. “You can teach and strengthen a certain response by encouraging it and discouraging negative one”. Every child is different. His abilities are different. “One autistic child can learn a talent and other cannot”. History shows some autistic children excelled in art, math and music.
Role of parents is very important for handling such children. They should get proper awareness about autism. Autistic child needs a continuous support from parents and siblings. “Parents should remain in contact with doctor and teacher”. Often parents get depressed, when they find that their child is autistic.  Some uneducated parents start taking such child as a burden. “Such attitude is completely wrong. They should understand that their duty then, as parents is doubled and becomes sacred also”, says Dr Bajwa.  As an autistic child reaches puberty he needs even more attention. Normal teens also suffer confusion at this stage by getting aware of physical changes. “Autistic teens become double confused than normal kids”. They start feeling that they are different which leads to depression, stress, anxiety and other psychological issues. Educating autistic children is also very challenging and requires patience and sincerity. Parents and teachers of such children should also attend special education courses for such children, so that they can educate them better.
Diet therapy also helps because nutritional deficiency also slows down brain function. Parents of autistic children should be better aware about their nutritional demand. “A healthy, well balanced and nutrition filled diet can enhance motor functions and can make nerve connections strong”. Medicines also help in improving some psychological symptoms; depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal disorders etcetera.

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