Autism Spectrum Disorder

Written By: 
By Radhika S.Bapat, Clinical Psychologist, Child Guidance Centre and Department of Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Sahyadri Hospitals, Pune

Autism is a neurobehavioral developmental problem with varying levels of limitations in social behavior & communication (making eye contact, language development, emotional maturity, empathizing with others, etc ) and rituals and stereotypies (behaviors that are repetitive like hand-flapping but don't seem to serve any function). 

2 children may share the diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Pervasive developmental Disorder (PDD) and still differ widely in their presentation. This is why they are called “Spectrum Disorder”. This further confuses parents who are likely to compare their children to other children with the same disorder, and see more differences than similarities. It is estimated that an average of 1 in 110 children (US statistics) have ASD. Children get diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 5.5 years, but for more than 50% of children with an ASD, developmental concerns had been recorded before three years of age.There could be several reasons for this increase in the number of children with this diagnosis over the years, including changing diagnostic criteria, better awareness, over-diagnosis and/or at times misdiagnosis. Nobody has been able to state the exact causes of ASD and hence work on preventive health models has not made much progress.

What we DO know is that it is a developmental disorder and a condition that lasts lifelong. Some children under 3 years, show a normal development until a certain age and then show regression in their behaviors following a trigger. These triggers are currently being evaluated.

If you suspect that your child is showing delays in her developmental milestones a check-up is very important. Evaluations for a child with suspected ASD should be done by a developmental specialist like a pediatrician, if seizures are present - a neurologist’s opinion is necessary, diagnostic testing and interventional testing by an audiologist, hearing and speech therapist, child psychologist/psychiatrist and occupational therapist are important. If a Sensory Integration and special education expert exist in your vicinity, this would also be very beneficial for you.