Autism – Keep An Eye, Trust Your Instinct, Pick it early!

Autism written on the wipe board

Last week I got a chance to attend an interesting and interactive Webinar.

 Webinar is a seminar conducted over a video conferencing call, where several people at different locations can take part and interact with each other.

It was organized by Himalaya BabyCare. The session was conducted by Mrs. Anupama Maruvada, a renowned Child Behavior Therapist (Founder & Clinical Director of CBT 2) associated with Himalaya BabyCare.

Topic of the discussion was Autism – Not a disease but a disorder

This extremely interactive webinar was attended by mothers, mommy bloggers and medical practitioners. The agenda was to create awareness about Autism as a condition and educating mothers to pick the symptoms at an early age so that it can be handled and managed well.

Below are important excerpts from the session; questions asked by attendees and addressed by Mrs. Anupama Maruvada.

 Autism: What exactly it is?

Autism is a neurological condition, present from early childhood. It is characterized by difficulty in

  1. Communication
  2. Forming relationships with other people
  3. Using language and abstract concepts

In simple terms, when a child has trouble communicating and understanding what people think and feel, it becomes difficult for him/her to respond to gestures, facial expressions, touch and even language. That is Autism.

How common it is?

It is seen amongst 1 in every 60 children today, which was at a ratio of 1 in 110 few years back. 1 – 3 % of autistic children are between ages two and nine in India.

How parents can spot the warning signs?

Not a paediatrician but a parent is in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs of autism. The key is to educate yourself so you know what’s normal and what’s not.

  • Monitor your child’s development and keep a close eye on your child’s social, emotional, and cognitive milestones.
  • Take action if you’re concerned. Do remember that every child’s development has a different pace. Don’t panic if your child is a little late to walk or talk. But if your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age and you do suspect a problem, DO NOT WAIT! Share your concerns with your child’s doctor immediately.

What are the early sign and symptoms of autism?

Signs and symptoms of autism in babies & toddlers:

Your baby or toddler doesn’t,

  • Make eye contact (looking at you when being fed or smiling back at you)
  • Respond to his or her name being called
  • Follow your gesture when you point things out
  • Wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate
  • Make noises to seek attention
  • Play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
  • Notice or care if you get hurt or are in pain

Signs and symptoms of autism in older children:

– Social difficulties

  • Appears disinterested
  • Find it difficult to connect with others, to play or make friends
  • Prefers not to be held, touched or cuddled
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when others talk to him/her
  • Many kids seem to prefer to live in their own world

– Speech and language difficulties

  • Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm
  • Repeats the same words or phrases again and again
  • Responds to a question by repeating it, instead of answering it
  • Use language incorrectly (wrong words, grammatical errors)
  • Refers to him or herself in the third person
  • Doesn’t understand simple directions or questions

– Nonverbal communication difficulties

  • Avoids direct eye contact
  • Uses facial expressions that don’t match with what he or she is trying to say
  • Makes very few gestures
  • Could be especially sensitive to loud noises.
  • Abnormal posture or eccentric ways of moving like walking on tiptoe

 

What causes autism?

Until recently, it was believed that cause of autism is genetic in nature. But new research indicates that environmental factors may also contribute in the development of autism.

It’s important to note that the environmental factors, in this context, are not limited to pollution or toxins in the atmosphere but could be more of prenatal environmental factors.

Prenatal factors could be,

  • Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester
  • Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly of folic acid
  • Late pregnancy and paternity
  • Complications after birth such as very low birth weight and neonatal anemia
  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Exposure to chemical pollutants during pregnancy, such as metals and pesticides

 

Are there any medical tests to confirm the disorder?

Presently, there is no specific medical test that can ‘diagnose’ autism. Specially trained physicians and psychologists conduct various screening tests and autism-specific behavioural evaluations to conclude the diagnosis.

Detailed screening in form of questions is done for the child and parents both.

 

Autism can be reversed?

Yes, it can be. Early intervention and behavioral therapy can reverse the symptoms of autism to a greater extent. Early intervention is to do with being aware about Autism. Behavioral therapy comprises of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which helps in functionally reverse Autism and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which helps in severe cases of autism to teach daily living skills.

More than the physician or counsellor, a mother can be the best person to ‘Undo the Condition’.

Is it treatable?

Autism is like diabetes. Definite cure may not be likely but complete management is definitely possible by an integrated holistic cognitive behavior therapy with educational approach, which is developed by Mrs. Anupama Maruvada as part of early intervention program at CBT 2. Both together give the best results in functionally reversing autism through early intervention.

The webinar added so much value and insights given were easily understandable even by a layman.

Thank you Himalaya BabyCare for organizing this and giving me an opportunity to attend it.

You can have a look at Himalaya Baby Care products here

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