Children develop at different rates and in varying ways. On occasion, the level of development is not as expected; difficulties in grasping certain basic ideas and actions are noticed in a child’s behavior. Consequently, the concerned parent takes the infant to a pediatrician for assessment. Results from the test might lead to a diagnosis of a developmental disorder called autism.
The word autism has connotations for some people and can even produce irrational feelings of aversion towards the affected individual. This is commonly due the observer previously being misinformed, or not given a simple explanation about autism. A better understanding of the disorder is required to remedy those reactions.
Autism is often characterized by unusual, and sometimes specific, behavior in children and adults. Manifestations might include the inability to socialize with people, or vocalizing nonsensical sounds at inappropriate times. Depending on types and severities of the condition, different categories are applied to the diagnoses.
The overall category is termed “Autism Spectrum Disorder”, or ASD. Another name for it is “Pervasive Developmental Disorder”, commonly referred to as PDD. The two phrases are interchangeable and rarely differentiated. As a descriptor, ASD is a generic term. It outlines an assortment of disorders in functional development, the same way weather covers a variety of climatic conditions.
Under the ASD umbrella fall five distinct diagnoses. These are Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS.
A moment should be spent to focus on the last-mentioned diagnosis. The phrase, “Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified” tells us two things. The disorder is related to the other ASD conditions, yet it does not specifically adhere to the expected symptoms of those categories. It is a useful catch-all a pediatrician might employ while the child is still young, as the term enables the placement of the condition within the autism spectrum without specifying a particular disorder. With additional information being gleaned from further assessments, the diagnosis may be refined into a specific ASD category.
Predefined traits, possibly indicating ASD, might be noticed when interacting with a child. These could include language difficulties, such as the inability to converse fluently at several years old. Echolalia, or repeating a spoken word in robotic or parrot fashion without understanding the meaning of the word, could be cause for concern; pointing at an object, and pushing the hand of an adult to fetch the item, might raise similar issues.
In addition to language problems, there are also physical or mobility characteristics which might be noticed. Constantly spinning around on the spot until dizziness sets in; bouncing up and down while flapping the hands in moments of excitement, often accompanied by squeals of delight; putting hands over the ears to shut out obtrusive noises, even at low volume. These may all suggest an ailment is present.
Communicating and socializing can be problematic. When being spoken to, an autistic person frequently avoids eye contact and might even look away from the speaker. It must be understood this is not a sign of discourtesy or bad manners, but simply a way for the affected person to cope with a given situation.
Aligning items is another manifestation of the condition. Toy cars queued across the floor, or several food cans balanced one on top of another to a surprising height, are potential indicators. There are many more signs and symptoms that might point to a developmental disorder.
It is important to realize this is a lifelong condition, but there are ways to moderate its effect on the person and those around them. Though there is currently no cure for autism, Occupational Therapy can be employed for teaching basic skills such as self-dressing. Similarly, Speech Therapy will help to improve communication and enhance the quality of life for the sufferer. It is important to ensure qualified professionals are consulted at every point, to achieve maximum results from therapeutic tasks.
With help, encouragement and understanding from those around them, an adult or child diagnosed with ASD can live a full and satisfying life. Many go on to have successful careers and families of their own. Nothing could be more satisfying than that, with or without the disorder. If you are needing help as a caregiver of autistic individual don’t hesitate to contact Genacta to provide respite care in Anchorage.
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