AUTISM IS NOT A DISEASE, IT IS NOT A CURSE AND IT IS NOT CONTAGIOUS!!!
In recognition of the growing prevalence of autism as a global health crisis, the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2007 adapted resolution 62/139 declaring April 2nd World Autism Awareness. The whole month of April has subsequently been adapted as Autism Awareness Month.
SO WHAT IS AUTISM???
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of complex disorders of brain development which features as a part of a series of syndromes with different aetiologies. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include
– Autistic Disorder,
– Rett syndrome,
– Childhood Disintegrative Disorder,
– Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and
– Asperger syndrome.
Autism is currently the 2nd fastest growing global disorder and has been recorded as growing at an annual rate of 10-17% which represents a 600% increase in 20 years. It affects more boys than girls on a 4:1 ratio and does not distinguish gender, race or social status.
Current statistics places it’s prevalence at 1:50 school children in the US, 1:34 in the Scotland, 1 in 100 in South Africa and 1:38 in South Korea. We have no data on autism prevalence in Nigeria currently but as field workers we know the rates are equally high.
Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more.
About 40% of children with autism are non-verbal. About 25%–30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others might speak, but not until later in childhood.
WHAT CAUSES AUTISM??
There is still no one known cause for autism because no two individuals with autism are affected the same and there are ‘different autisms with different pathways’. Although the question remains a huge source of controversy, what is generally agreed is that a complex relationship between genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors can lead to the onset of autism. It has been said that “genetics loads the guns and the environment pulls the trigger”
Because each child or adult with autism is unique with symptoms and behaviors combining in many ways and varying in severity; every autism intervention plan must be tailored to address specific needs and can involve behavioral treatments or therapies, dietary changes and use of supplements or medicines or a combination of all.
An autism diagnosis usually places a huge burden on the families of affected children and unfortunately we currently have no federally funded service providing educational support or related services to families with children with autism in Nigeria.
Advocates are hard at work campaigning tirelessly to ensure that the situation changes for the Nigeria autism community.
SOME EARLY SIGNS OF AUTISM TO WATCH OUT FOR
(THIS IS JUST A GUIDE AND IS BY NO MEANS EXHAUSTIVE OR FOOLPROOF)
– Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed or spoken to).
– Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
– Doesn’t follow objects visually.
– Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
– Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
– Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
– Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
– Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
– No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
– No babbling by 12 months
– No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
– No words by 16 months
– No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
– Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
– May walk on tiptoes
– Displays indifference
– Joins in peer activities only when an adult insists or assists
– Indicates needs by using an adults’ hand or crying
– Repeatedly handles or spins objects
– Displays a lack of creative pretend play
– Is resistant to change in routine
– Laughs, giggles or cries for no obvious reason
The M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) can help you determine if a professional should evaluate your child. (hyperlink – https://www.m-chat.org/_references/mchatDOTorg.pdf )
TREATMENTS FOR AUTISM
Each child or adult with autism is unique with symptoms and behaviors combining in many ways and varying in severity; therefore each autism intervention plan is tailored to address specific needs. Interventions can involve:
– Biomedical Interventions – http://www.generationrescue.org/recovery/biomedical-treatment/
– Behavioral treatments or therapies such as Applied Behaviour Analysis – http://www.appliedbehavioralstrategies.com/what-is-aba.html
– Speech Therapy – http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/speech.htm
– Nutritional and Dietary Treatments – http://nourishinghope.com/
– Sensory Integration Therapy – http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/study-finds-sensory-integration-therapy-benefits-children-autism
– Physical Therapy – http://www.everydayhealth.com/autism/physical-therapy.aspx
– Occupational Therapy – http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/benefits-of-occupational-therapy-for-autism
– Social Interventions (such as play with siblings, play dates and social group activities) – http://www.ocali.org/view.php?nav_id=19
– Medical treatment for associated medical conditions – http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/treatment-associated-medical-conditions, http://www.phxautism.org/understanding-autism/autism-and-co-ocurring-conditions/
It is important to emphasize that autism is a spectrum disorder and as such, what works for one individual may not necessarily work for others. The Child Restoration Initiative does not endorse any specific interventions and invite parents and caregivers to consult with the relevant professionals before undertaking any interventions. We do believe that early intervention is key because it affords most individuals the best option for recovery and others the best opportunity to live a functional life.
For extensive information on autism treatment please see:
– Biomedical Interventions Explained – http://www.autism.com/ed_what_is_biomed
– Autism Treatments – http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment
– Treatment ratings for autism – http://www.autism.com/treatment_ratings_asd
– Summary of Dietary, Nutritional, and Medical Treatment for Autism – http://ariconference.com/enews/treatment.pdf
If concerned or suspicious, it is best to have an assessment done BECAUSE EARLY INTERVENTION IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! Early diagnosis and treatment CAN help young children with autism develop to their full potential.
Please join the Nigeria autism community on www.facebook.com/nigeriansforautism
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES CULLED FROM
– Autism Speaks – http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism
– National Autism Association – http://nationalautismassociation.org/
– Autism Research Institute – http://www.autism.com/