What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? Treatment for ASD

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? Treatment for ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the ability of a person to communicate, interact and behave in social settings. The diagnostic characteristics of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) term specify a group of disorders recognized by delays in social and communication skills. The issues may also include problems in understanding language, relating to objects and events. Critical developmental disorders like Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett Syndrome are included under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not fatal. There is no permanent cure for ASD till now. Also, the exact cause is unknown. But they all can be treated in the clinic, social settings and home. The paediatrician will provide care guidelines for each individual as per their specific symptoms and problems. In rare cases, the ASD is diagnosed in the later years of life. It is often in relation to social, learning and emotional abnormalities.

Every Autism Spectrum Disorder patient is different with varying symptoms and problems. So doctors will prescribe different procedures for individual patients.

ASD diagnosis is usually a dual-stage process. The initial stage involves general screening. Children who show developmental disorders are recommended for evaluation stage. The second stage is of expert team evaluation.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism:

Autism is characterized by disorders in social and communications developments along with repetitive behaviour like clapping hands. Unusual sensory responses, unnoticed attitude and problem from bright lights or colors in children are common. The character of Dustin Hoffman in the Tom Cruise’s movie Rainman is the best example of Autism. Early signs of Autism include lack of developmental milestones among children between 18 months to 3 years. They may have problems related to eye contact, responding to their name, being in their own world, language, etc.

The environmental factors and genetics both can cause autism since childhood. Still, the exact causes are unknown for Autistic Disorders.

The diagnostics and treatment for autistic patients differ as no two autistic individuals are same. The paediatrician may use Autism screen in a yes-or-no test format for Autism diagnosis. The Positive screen result will require referring a specialist by the family.

Autism is cureless as of now. Still some behavioural and educational techniques are used to reduce symptoms. Applied Behavioural Analysis is the most commonly used therapy. Medicinal drugs like Risperidone and Aripiprazole are prescribed to reduce irritability. But they don’t cure the core Autism symptoms. Drug therapies are not a treatment for behavioural approaches. Speech-language therapy can help improve the communication skills. The prime focus of the treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is to modify behaviour and skill developments.

Asperger’s Syndrome:

Shah Rukh Khan’s character in the movie “My Name is Khan” is the best example to help you visualize Asperger’s Syndrome. The Asperger’s patients have problems in nonverbal communication and socialization. They cannot make eye contact. They have repetitive behavioural patterns and interest. They show very few emotions. For example, they don’t cry when they are sad. They talk in a flat robotic way. The patients suffering from Asperger’s can’t interpret the body language of others, unlike other people. But they have average or above average IQ and develop in the areas of language and cognition. The diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome falls under Autism Spectrum Disorder. The condition is often treated with a team approach.

Rett Syndrome:

Rett Syndrome is a rare neuro developmental disorder found exclusively in females. This is because the defect is in X chromosome. Such patients suffer from motor and movement disabilities. It is observed in four stages since childhood. The hand movements are restricted due to it and they can’t walk normally. Almost every case of Rett Syndrome is observed to be caused by a gene MECP2 mutation. Slowing of head and brain growth is the early noticed symptom of Rett Syndrome. The social and language skills are also impaired. Apraxia becomes a severely disabling feature. The girls may also have muscle and coordination abnormalities.

Behavioural therapies, medications and educational/social learnings are the best Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) treatment methods adopted globally. The signs and symptoms of PDP and ASD are generally found at the age of 3. It is the critical age of the growth of a child. Hence, they are called Developmental Disorders.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Bharti Talreja (MBBS, DPM, FAGE, MIPS)She is a Psychiatrist practising in Indore, India.