I wish someone handed me a guide when I found out my child is autistic. A little summary on autism for those of you who like to read and know. Currently more than ten of my friends have autistic children. Half of them found out recently.
Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder. It is characterized by lack in social interaction and language use. Most of the times accompanied with repetitive behavior and other symptoms. It is a developmental disability. Autistic people are born with a slightly different brain.
There is no single cause of autism. The symptoms can vary from very mild to very severe. That is why it is called the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It can look different in different affected individual.
Suspect autism if…
1. Your child does not smile by 6 months.
2. Your child does not respond to their name by 12 months of age or by first birthday.
3. Your child does not point at objects to show interest like an aeroplane or waves bye byes by 14 months of age.
4. Your child avoids eye contact.
5. Your child likes to play on his own most of the times.
6. Your child has trouble understanding other people’s feelings. He/she does not understand emotion, own or others. Shows lack of empathy.
7. Not playing make believe games, interactive games like pick a boo. Not playing with toys properly. Not imitating others by 18 months.
8. He may not stretch out his arm to be picked up or to be guided while walking.
9. Your child has delayed language or speech skills. Does not Coo or babble by 12 months, speak with one word by 16 months, two words by 24 months.
10. Your child repeats words or phrases over and over. ( Echolalia)
11. Your child gets upset with minor changes in the routine.
12. Your child has obsessive interests.
14. Your child shows repetitive behaviour like hand flapping, body rocking, twirling or jumping.
15. Shows aggressive behaviour, can be with self( like head banging on the wall or the ground) or with others.
16. Constant moving( pacing) and hyper behaviour.
17. Your child has unusual reaction to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel.
18. Your child might have learning disability or difficulty.
19. They might have sleep disturbances.
20. They might have unusual reaction to social settings like crowded public places.
21. Crying tantrums, extreme distress for no apparent reason.
22. No sense of danger.
23. Enjoys spinning or rotating objects.
Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives then they start showing symptoms. Not every person will have all symptoms stated above. It differs from person to person.
The earlier your child receives autism screening, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier they start receiving services and therapies, the better they will do over the long run. In our country we go through a denial period and the child looses a couple of years in the process. As soon as they turn their teen years it becomes more difficult to mould them and help them.
There are three levels of autism: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 ASD: require little support.
Level 1 ASD is the least severe. This could be viewed as mild autism.
These people may struggle in social situations and have some trouble with restrictive or repetitive behaviors but they only require minimal support to help them function in their day to day activities.
They are likely to be able to communicate verbally. They may be able to have some relationships. However, they may struggle maintaining a conversation and making and keeping friends may not come easily or naturally to them.
They usually prefer to stick to routines and feel uncomfortable with changes or unexpected events. They may want to do certain things in their own way.
Level 2 ASD: Requiring Substantial Support
Level 2 ASD is the middle-range of autism in terms of severity of symptoms and needs for supports.
These people have more difficulty with social skills than level 1 ASD. They may or may not communicate verbally. If they do, their conversations may be very short or only on specific topics or they may need extensive support in order to participate in social activities.
They may not look at someone who is talking to them. They may not make much eye contact. They may not express emotions through tone of voice or through facial expressions in the same way that most other people do.
In case of restrictive or repetitive behaviors, they may have routines or habits that they feel they must do and, if these get interrupted, they become very uncomfortable or upset.
Level 3 ASD: Requiring Very Substantial Support
Level 3 ASD is the most severe form of autism spectrum disorder.
These people show significant difficulties with social communication and social skills. Their restrictive or repetitive behaviors often get in the way of functioning independently and successfully with everyday activities.
Although some individuals with Level 3 ASD can communicate verbally (with words), many do not communicate verbally or may not use many words to communicate.
They may be overly or under sensitive to particular sensory side. They have restrictive or repetitive behaviours such as rocking, echolalia, spinning things, or other behaviors that preoccupy their attention.
People with Level 3 ASD require very substantial support to learn skills important for everyday living. They need a lot of support.
My son Maheer has level 3 ASD.