Even though April 2 is observed as Autism Awareness Day, the entire week from March 28 to April 2 is observed as Autism week.
Fit Northeast in conversation with Trauma Resolution Expert and Transpersonal Psychotherapist, Alankrita Bhuyan came to know that Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that basically impairs or which affects social, communication and behavioural skills. Autism falls under a broad spectrum called Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes many other disorders like Asperger's syndrome (or high-functioning autism), Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder.
Even though the causes of autism are not clear to date, it can be said that there are definitely genetic causes involved or some sort of brain and birth trauma involved. Environmental factors also have a huge influence.
In case of detection of autism, there are several ways. Just after the birth, a child is supposed to look at the parent, move their head around (after a few months), respond by smiling or looking at something when parents are showing something. These are some natural phenomena of a normal child. But in some cases, if the child is not responding, has no expression (especially no happy expression) till 6 months.
Then this might be a signal that the child is autistic. If a child (without a hearing impairment) does not react to his name being called, it might also be a signal. Another signal may be that if the child does not babbles or does any cooing sound till 12 months. If the child does not show any hand movements or gestures till 12-14 months, there is a need to approach the psychologist. There is a lack of reciprocity of emotions.
A technique called Applied Behavioral Analysis is used in teaching the children and it focuses on teaching new skills and will help in increasing vocational skills, and social and behavioural skillsIn the case of a child, the symptoms are visible as early as 18-24 months. We can usually feel the symptoms before the age of 3. Early detection is very necessary for an early start of treatment.
The diagnosis criteria plays a vital role as it will decide that if a person will be autistic lifelong or not. If a child meets the criteria of having autism and if early intervention is given to the child, the child becomes more and more functional. As the child becomes functional, he will gradually start making eye contact with people and socialising.
In case of treatment, if the child is very young (say 2 and a half years), it is a challenge as the child is too young to understand the commands but early intervention is still advised. The suitable age to start the intervention is 3 years.
A technique called Applied Behavioral Analysis is used in teaching the children and it focuses on teaching new skills and will help in increasing vocational skills, and social and behavioural skills. It also includes behavioural modification techniques. It includes centrally included exercises along with speech therapy.
It is still debatable to say whether one can be completely cured or not.
Before concluding, Ms Bhuyan said that in the present time, many of people or parents have become aware of what autism is and this is a good sign. It is seen that these children are taken to early intervention centres for treatment. It was said that a hand of co-operation from the child's parents make the work of the counsellors, psychologists easy.