Have you ever wondered what exactly autism is? Do you know someone who you think might be autistic? Would you like to understand and relate better with him or her? Are there any available treatments for autism?
Most people have heard of Autistic disorder, more commonly known as Autism, and may have a vague idea of some behaviours to expect from an autistic person. A typical example would be Dustin Hoffman’s award winning portrayal in the 1988 hit movie “Rain Man”. What this article aims to do is not just to give more information about autism, but to elicit a deeper understanding of the disorder so that one can relate better with such people.
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), autism should be diagnosed when a person has at least six or more symptoms from the 3 major symptom areas which are Social interactions, Communication and Repetitive and rigid behaviours. It is also noted that these Symptoms should be apparent before 3 years of age. Autism is found 4 times more often in boys than girls. Now to explore these areas and how one can cope with people expressing these symptoms.
Autistic people have problems with social interactions so you’d find that they don’t express themselves the way normal people do in their speech and gestures and they don’t keep eye contact. They prefer to keep to themselves and seem to lack empathy. This makes it difficult for them to make friends and in fact it doesn’t often seem like they are interested in doing so. Having an autistic child in a normal school setting my not be the best option as they do not enjoy crowds and that much attention either. As they do form attachments to caregivers, it would be preferable for their caregivers to teach them and spend time with them in their homes, a place where they are used to already. Caregivers also have to understand what behaviours to expect and realize it is not their fault that the child seems indifferent or does not want to play with them. It could be frustrating but autistic people need patience, along with the presence and attention of the caregiver.
They also have language problems. Either their sentences are incomplete or they keep repeating the same word over and over. They rarely gesture when they speak so particular attention would have to be paid when they are trying to communicate. Again this requires a lot of patience and understanding. One can try to probe them when they think they have an idea of what the autistic person is trying to say. However they should not be hurried or forced to speak faster or clearer because it would not help the situation.
Finally, they’d have one or more repetitive behaviour patterns. A common one is having specific items that they stick to, like seating on the same chair and the same spot, using the same cup each day and playing with the same toys. They also stick to a strict routine each day, doing the same activities in the same pattern, and have compulsions, such as arranging items in a particular order. It may seem weird but one should not interfere as it may make them very anxious. They have limited interests due to their strict daily pattern so finding what would keep them happy would not be difficult. However, it may be difficult to watch them do repetitive body movements such as turning their heads or flapping their hands again and again. This does not mean there’s a problem as they reward themselves internally for such behaviour. One should just observe to make sure they do not harm themselves in the process.
It is important to treat autistic people not like they have a disorder or like they are weird, as they still have feelings, but as a different type of people. However, there is a possibility of improving their condition and making them closer to normal.
Neurofeedback and Autism
Neurofeedback is one of the treatments that could help improve an autistic persons condition. It is the monitoring and normalizing of the persons brainwave activities through an electroencephalographic (EEG) brain scan. Of the few and limited treatments for autism, in a small number of studies, improvements in speech and social interaction have been found after people with autism used neurofeedback compared to those who didn’t. So it is definitely a treatment one can give a chance in order to improve an autistic persons quality of life. (For more information on neurofeedback visit http://www.mobilehealthconsult.org/?page_id=724 )
April is Autism awareness month, spread the knowledge about autism!