Autism

Q: What is autism? How is it caused? Is it preventable in the early stages of pregnancy? Is there a cure for children affected from autism? My son of 4 years has been diagnosed as autistic though his CT Scan, EEG, Fragile-X gene test, etc. have been found normal. He cannot speak, uses jargon and is having problem in focussing or concentrating on anything. He uses repetitive hand movements and same patterns. He is not interested in playing with his peers and toys. We sent him to a special school for 4 months but had to be withdrawn from there because he started falling ill more than often.

A:It is unfortunate that your son has been diagnosed with autism. Autism is a brain disorder that affects an individual''s ability to communicate effectively with other people. This disorder is evident very early in life - usually before the child is 30 months old. Parents fail to notice the early signs of the disability in most cases and the child may only be considered shy and withdrawn. The exact cause of the disorder is not known, but it is believed to be caused due to brain abnormalities. Autism is not a disease and thus has no cure. It is a disorder and the depending on the severity, the child will need to be rehabilitated into mainstream society. Though most autistic children do not show much improvement with time, there have been some reported cases of children who have recovered enough to lead a normal life. There is no medical treatment or cure for autism. The aim of treatment is to minimize disruptive behaviours and to integrate the child effectively into mainstream society. The earlier the treatment starts, the better is the chance of the child being effectively adjusted into the society. Behavioural therapy in which a childÆs behaviour is modified to minimize aggressive and destructive behaviours and enhance socially acceptable ones, is most effective. In this therapy, the child is rewarded for desirable behaviours and undesirable behaviours are discouraged until they become extinct. The rewards first start with concrete objects and are finally brought down to abstract things like verbal praise. Speech therapy is started for the child as soon as possible. It consists of structured educational programmes in which the child''s responsiveness to sounds is moderated. Activities to improve the child''s eye contact are also used. There are associations around the world which deal with autism and here are the contact details of two of them: Mrs. Mythili Chari
Institution for Remedial Intervention Services
email: mythili@autismindia.com Mrs. Merry Barua
Action for Autism
email: autism@vsnl.com
Website: www.autism-india.org You need to consult a child psychologist/ psychiatrist as early as possible so that the remedial therapy may be started. In the meanwhile, please read the write up on Autism in the Children section of our website to clear any doubts.

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