Autism is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
A child who has autism may seem very withdrawn, not make eye contact with people, not talk or play the way other children do, or repeat certain motions and behaviors over and over again.
“Children with autism generally have problems with social interaction, language or behavior, said Dr. Ann Aring, a family physician in Columbus. “The symptoms of autism vary greatly from child to child. Some children show signs of autism in early infancy; others develop normally for the first few months or years and then lose skills they have already acquired.”
Since there is no lab test that can detect autism, it is often diagnosed when a baby or toddler does not behave as expected for their age. If your physician suspects your child has autism, you may be referred to a sub-specialist or other health care professional so that your child can be evaluated.
“Autism does not have a single known cause. It is likely that both genetics and environment contribute to the cause of autism. To date, extensive studies have not found a link between autism and vaccines,” Aring said.
Several treatments for autism, such as intense behavior and language therapy, may help some children; however, there are no medications that treat autism. Yet, medications may help with some of the symptoms of autism, such as aggressive behavior or sleeplessness.
“Raising a child with autism can be a challenging task. I recommend that families with autistic children learn about the disorder as there are many myths and misconceptions about autism. I also recommend finding a local support group as it can be a source of support and advice from other families struggling with the challenges of autism. In addition, because caring for a child with autism can be physically and emotionally draining, I recommend that
caregivers take time for themselves as well as other family members,” said Aring.
If you suspect your child has autism, talk to your family physician or pediatrician so appropriate screening and therapy can begin.
Common signs of autism
• Avoids cuddling or making eye contact
• Does not respond to voices or other sounds
• Does not respond to their name
• Does not talk or does not use language properly
• Rocks back and forth, spins or bangs their head
• Stares at parts of an object, such as the wheels of a toy car
• Does not understand hand gestures or body language
• Does not pretend or play make-believe games
• Is very concerned with order, routine or ritual and becomes upset if routine is disturbed or changed
• Has a flat facial expression or uses a monotone voice
• Injures themselves or is unafraid of danger
Sources: www.familydoctor.org, www.cdc.gov.