Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term used for a group of brain development disorders that leads to a partial or complete loss of a person’s ability to communicate, socialize or relate to other people. ASD is commonly referred to as simply ‘autism’.
Why is it a ‘Spectrum Disorder’?
It is called a spectrum disorder because it includes an umbrella of disorders such as autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. The term ‘spectrum disorder’ also means that different people are affected differently by ASD and do not have the same symptoms. So autistic people could have low IQs or high IQs, could be absolutely able bodied or have significant disability, could be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to certain senses. One size does not fit all.
Why does ASD happen?
A recent meta-analysis study points to a correlation between the corpus callosum, a large and complex bundle of nerves in the brain, and autism. Individuals with autism tend to have a reduced corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is supposed to be the part of the brain responsible for emotional and social functioning as well as higher cognitive processes such as decoding nonliteral meaning, affective prosody, and understanding humor.
When can we diagnose ASD?
Unfortunately, most parents diagnose their children after they are 2-3 years old, when they start behaving differently from other children their age. However, if you keep your eyes open for the signs of ASD, you can diagnose it as early as between 6-12 months of the child’s age. Watch out for signs:
– Is the child slow in learning to communicate?
– Does the child avoid eye contact?
– Does the child shun social contact and prefer to be alone?
In older kids, you’ll notice that apart from the above signs, they might be very sensitive to certain sounds or colors, they may not be able to read or speak, they might gaze at things for long periods of time or they might perform repetitive actions.
Share these signs with your doctor immediately to get a diagnosis.
What is the treatment?
Children with autism need to be taught everything differently. The longer you have waited to diagnose your child, the more he / she needs to cover up. Early intervention, before the child is 18 months old, makes your child ready to take on the world in a more confident way.
Treating children with ASD includes:
– Cognitive and language enhancement skills
– A specialized curriculum for studies
– Regular therapy
– Depending on the type of ASD, specialized skills training
This website aims to give you all the information you need about ASD. By sharing our experiences and stories, we can all give our children the best help they can get
Nobody wishes for an autistic child, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking for signs of autism in your baby. Research shows that early intervention, even as young as six months, can strongly improve your child’s autism and allow them to live a healthy, social life.
The autism spectrum is quite vast and there are no ‘one size fits all’ symptoms. However, all autistic children will show some degree of autism related problems. Here are X signs that you should look for in your child, from the time she is born till she is eighteen to twenty months old:
1. Slow in learning to communicate
Autistic children are typically self-absorbed. They tend to live in their own private world and do not seem comfortable around others. They have trouble learning language skills and often do not start speaking even after most children their age have. They may not respond to people who try to communicate with them. Many parents may even suspect that their children are deaf, but they are simply ignoring people around them. Many autistic children also have problems communicating non-verbally i.e. they cannot gesture correctly with their hands or express their feelings using their faces.
2. Avoids eye contact
Children do not make eye contact when they are babies. However, you can still pick up on some signs. When you talk to your baby, she will ideally look at your face. Slightly older kids will look up when you talk to them. Autistic kids do not feel the need to look at you when you speak. Research suggests that autistic children may find even the friendliest of faces threatening. The amygdala – an emotion center in the brain associated with negative feelings – lights up to an abnormal extent when an autistic child casts a direct gaze upon a non-threatening face.
3. Prefers to be alone
Autistic children do not like to be touched or played with. Your infant may start crying every time she is picked up for any reason other than drinking milk or a diaper change. She may simply ignore people’s attempts to play with her and look another way or show her discomfort by wailing loudly.
As a parent, you need to:
Keep a close eye on your baby’s emotional, social and cognitive development. If your child is lagging behind her peers in all three, her chances of being in the autism spectrum are very high.
- Monitor your child’s development
Older family members and well-wishers may tell you not to worry, but ignoring signs is the worst thing you can do. As a parent, trust your instincts. If you feel that something is wrong, it might just be. Developmental delays could be a symptom of a variety of problems and need to be checked into. Even if your child may not have autism, it’s good to know what else is causing this delay.
If you see signs of autism, talk to your doctor immediately. Make a list of events and episodes before you do so. This will give the doctor a lot of information that will help her diagnose your child better. Early intervention helps accelerate emotional, social and cognitive development in children.
- Don’t wait and see (trust your instincts)
Many autistic children have a problem with spatial reference and balancing themselves. This is one of the reasons it is so difficult for an autistic kid to learn how to ride a bike. However, if you take the right steps in the right order, your child can learn to be a really good cyclist!
1. Teach the child balance first
With non-autistic children, we first give them a bicycle with training wheels and then remove the training wheels once they are able to ride their cycle. Effectively, what we’re doing is teaching them to pedal first and balance themselves later. This equation needs to be turned around with autistic kids. Their biggest hurdle is balance so you must focus on that.
Get your child a balance bike. These bikes have no pedals so your child puts her feet on the ground and walks with the bike in between her legs. This teaches her how to balance herself while sitting on a bike and also makes her comfortable with this contraption with two wheels.
2. Then teach her to pedal
Once your child is completely comfortable with a balance bike, move her to a pedal bike. This could take years so take your time. You can have the training wheels, but not for too long because you don’t want her to get used to being auto-balanced. She has to apply what she learned with her balance bike.
3. Slowly graduate to a proper bike
Once you are totally sure that your child is ready to learn (and fall) a regular bike, go ahead and buy one. Make sure that your child chooses the bike herself so she is completely comfortable with it. Tell her to sit on it and balance it without the pedals before she makes a choice.
4. Let her choose her gear
Along with the bike, ask your kid to choose her own gear - helmet, kneepads - whatever it takes to make her comfortable on her bike. This is important for her to start using her new bike without too much fear.
5. Choose the right location
Choose an area that doesn’t have too many distractions. Also, try to find a place where the ground is firm, yet not too rough or hard so that your child can fall without getting hurt.
6. Give her time to learn
Your child will take time to learn. Be patient and as encouraging as you can.
7. Encourage, but don’t push
You may try everything by the book, but your child may not be able to learn how to cycle. If your child stops wanting to try, don’t push her. You may want to encourage her from time to time, but leave it at that. Biking is a supposed to be a fun activity so if it’s not for your child, it’s best she does something that she likes in her free time.
So go ahead and do the best you can for your child. Whether she learns to bike or not, make this a way to share some great moments with her!
As a parent of an autistic child, you know how difficult it can be to go out for a party. Leaving your child in someone else’s care is difficult and maybe even dangerous. The nanny or babysitter needs to be well versed in taking care of an autistic child. In fact, they need to be well known to your child so that she is comfortable in their hands. That’s why it is better to celebrate New Year at home, with family and loved ones.
Don’t call too many people
Invite those who are comfortable around your child and vice versa. Close friends and family who frequent the house or spend time with your child are ideal. If you are inviting children, make sure that your child gets along with them. You may even invite families of children with autism so that everybody has a place to celebrate!
Communicate important do’s and don’ts
Like what not to bring to the party, certain colors that people should not be wearing, etc. You could do this without offending people by having a theme or a dress code.
Play the right music
This could fit in to the theme of your party if planned right. Play the kind of music that your child will be comfortable with. Make sure that the volume is not tampered with too much.
Stick with familiar activities
Play games and activities that your child is familiar with. If you have invited other autistic children, take out time to find out what kind of activities they like to indulge in.
Choose the right food
Again, if you have other autistic children over, make sure you’ve arranged for food based on their preference as well. A good way of ensuring this is to have a potluck where each family gets something that they know their kids will eat. Make sure you label the food on the table when its served so people know what they’re picking up without having to bother you.
Prepare your child’s mind for the party
Finally, prepare your child for the party. Get her excited and let her look forward to it. Autistic children usually like structure, so explain the entire plan of the party. You may even want to create a time table of activities and events and share it with all families with autistic children.
It’s not too late if you don’t have anything planned yet. Go ahead and enjoy this new year with your autistic child!
The holiday season can be a great time to introduce new feelings to your child, but be careful as it can be overwhelming for your child to take in all the new sights, sounds and people. There are many ways to help your child cope with the excitement of the holiday season and also get accustomed to the abundance of newer food palates.
Start gradually easing your child into behavioral stimuli much before the holiday season begins. You can consult the therapist about showing your child how to communicate what he wants. Often, irritation or tantrums occur when the child does not know how to communicate what they want. However, be careful to teach them that they wont always get what they want gently but firmly.
Show them how to cope with disappointment positively and patiently. Teaching your child about meal time behaviour can be taxing but it is worth it. This way your family can dine together more often.
Visual representations of Christmas time and stories can help you child get a better perspective of what the season encapsulates. It can provide comfort for him to see pictures or videos of families dining together and may be more relaxed when they day does come.
For the Day
* Make sure your child dresses comfortably. It is not the best time to whip out a new costume with a material or colour your child isn’t already accustomed to. It can add pressure on an already foreign situation.
* Speak to your guests about maintaining pleasant decibels while conversing. Holidays and get -togethers can be loud affairs and that may be unpleasant or daunting to your child. Keep a set of noise reduction headphones in case you sense any discomfort in your child.
* Make sure there is a quiet room to retreat to where your child can relax with some of his favourite toys or books.
* Make sure you encourage him on all good behaviour and provide positive feedback. You know the best what sort of motivation your child responds to so a warm hug or a word of praise will ease him into certain environments.
* Keep strong aromas like scented candles at bay. Your food will already provide newer sensory overload for your child and it is safer to keep any additional sensory input at bay. I hope these tips are helpful in helping you and your family have a lovely time during the holidays!
Everybody thought that Carla loved to misbehave. She wouldn’t want to put on her clothes and would be irritable and cranky all day. She wouldn’t shake hands with people and would cry if the other children touched her.
Carla has autism and is extremely sensitive to touch. What was initially thought of as willful misbehavior was, in fact, a reaction to the discomfort and pain that Carla felt due to some fabrics that she wore and unanticipated touching from others.
Carla’s parents, like many other parents around the world, took time to understand what their daughter was going through. Children (and adults) with autism have what is commonly called Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Disorder.
Sensory processing problems
All of us have 5 basic senses - sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Each of these senses are perceived by the brain with the help of sensory organs. Our eyes, nose, tongue, ears and skin pass information to the brain that processes the data which tells us things like what we’re seeing or what we’re smelling. With autistic kids, this perception created by the brain does not happen properly. Autistic children will, therefore, either be overtly sensitive (hyper) or under-sensitive (hypo) to a certain sense. In Carla’s case, she was hypersensitive to the sense of touch. Opposite cases may mean that a child does not respond to touch at all, may not be able to identify materials with their hands and may hug people very tightly in order to feel safe or loved.
There are 2 additional not-so-basic senses - vestibular and proprioceptive. The vestibular sense allows our body to understand gravity and gives us a sense of balance. Children with vestibular hypersensitivity may have difficulty in stopping while running due to an inability to deal with inertia. Those with vestibular hyposensitivity may move their bodies in a rocking or swinging fashion all the time. The proprioceptive sense makes us aware of our body, the space it occupies and the space around it. Autistic people with proprioceptive hypersensitivity may have problems dealing with small objects and those with proprioceptive hyposensitivity bump into people a lot as they cannot judge the space between them and others.
This amazing page will give you a lot of information you need to know about the sensory perception of people with autism.
Sensory Integration Therapy
So is your child going to be in discomfort or pain all the time? Thankfully, no. As more and more research is done, scientists are finding more effective methods of improving the sensory function of autistic children.
Sensory integration therapy uses play activities to change the way the brain reacts to the sensory inputs given by the sensory organs. A remarkable and reassuring study highlights the benefits of Sensory Integration Therapy on autistic children.
As parents of autistic kids, we must always be aware of the things that they like and dislike. Awareness alone can push us to create next steps for them, which will allow them to live a comfortable life.
Rett Syndrome is a disorder in the grey matter of the brain that impairs children’s head growth, ability to speak and their motor skills. It is almost exclusively seen in girls. There is currently a debate on whether Rett Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum or not, but we would like to
Rett Syndrome is caused due to a mutation in the MECP2 gene and is one of the rare autism disorders that has a known cause. The biggest problem with Rett Syndrome is that it causes degeneration in the brain tissue when the child is between 1 to 4 years. This means that a toddler who seems to be learning at a normal pace suddenly sees a decline in motor function and spoken language.
Here are signs to pick up in order to diagnose Rett Syndrome at the earliest:
– Your daughter has stopped making eye contact with everybody.
– She doesn’t have any interest in toys around her.
– She is not able to walk or crawl with ease and prefers to sit in one place. This could happen even after she has learned to walk or crawl.
– Her head is not growing at the pace at which it was earlier.
– Your daughter starts to develop a characteristic and repetitive hand movement like clapping, tapping, wringing or jerking while she is awake.
– She is unable to say words that she had earlier learned.
– She starts having irregular breathing.
– Due to all of the above symptoms, she is irritable and may cry a lot.
– Your daughter starts having seizures
If your daughter has any of these signs, see a doctor and voice your concerns immediately. Early intervention will allow your daughter to live a more comfortable life than what she would have without treatment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects the social, emotional and cognitive development of children that continues until his/ her adulthood. It is characterized by deficiency in communication skills, social behavior, motor skills and mental functioning abilities.
The term ‘spectrum’ is used because it affects different children differently. While some children are only mildly impaired by their symptoms, others could be severely disabled. Parents of children with ASD find it extremely trying to live with their kid’s conditions. ASD in the family can cause mental and financial difficulties that can even lead to a rift in relationships. Thus, it is very important for parents of children with ASD to share their feelings with other such parents. Talking to other parents allows you to see things in a different perspective and focus on the joy that your children bring.
You have various options to find parents of children with ASD to talk to.
Autism parent support groups
Support groups range from those only for moms (or dads) to those for parents and family to those where you can take your kids along to too. This is a great way to meet other parents who are facing the same challenges that you are. You can share information, get advice or simply open your heart out for emotional support. Support groups prevent you from feeling ‘singled out’ and help you cope with the help of stories shared by other families.
If you are undergoing depression or anxiety, or frequently have panic attacks, you need to see a therapist. Counseling helps you get professional help to sort your psychological problems. Just talking to someone honestly about your problems tremendously boosts your spirit and gives you the strength to live through and enjoy another week. A therapist may also prescribe anti-depressants if you are in dire need of help. If your marriage is getting affected due to your child’s ASD, a marriage counselor will help you separate the issues stemming from ASD and those caused due to other factors so that you can deal with the problem more effectively. Counselors can also get you in touch with support groups that will help you specifically.
At times, you can break down and feel like you are unable to take care of your child with ASD. Opting for respite care will allow you to take time out and use this time to talk to other parents with similar problems. In respite care, a trained nanny can take care of your child for a few days or weeks. You should use this time to share your feelings with your counselor and / or parent support group.