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What is Autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that cause social impairment and communication difficulties in children.

In general, children with autism also have difficulty learning new things.

Autism can be categorised into different types in terms of its developmental disorders.

Causes of Autism

Until today, no studies have found the exact cause of autism. However, there are several factors that can increase the risk of autism, including: 

Genetic factors

If someone in your family has autism, it is possible that certain combinations of genes can increase the risk of developing autism.

Parental age factor

Children born to relatively old couples have an increased risk of autism.

Pregnancy health factors

If during pregnancy, the fetus is exposed to certain drugs or chemicals such as alcohol, this also increases the risk of autism. 

Gender factors

Boys have a 4 times higher risk of autism compared to girls.

However, the three factors above are not absolute. Autism can happen to anyone, of any race, ethnicity, and social background.

When to See a Doctor for Autism

There are several disorders within the autism spectrum that have symptoms similar to autism when they are in fact quite different. Different types of disorders require different treatments. Consult your doctor to provide a more accurate diagnosis of the disorder.

Below are examples of types of disorders in the autism spectrum disorder:

Asperger’s Syndrome

People with asperger’s syndrome may not experience problems in using their language, but still have difficulty in interacting or communicating with other people. 

The symptom of asperger’s syndrome is difficulty in interacting – even making eye contact. In addition, people with asperger’s syndrome have a tendency not to display facial expressions or express gestures such as smiling and laughing. 

People with asperger’s syndrome can also be very enthusiastic when talking about things that they like, but have no interest in listening to other people. This can be indicated from the way they spend hours explaining something they like/have interest in, in great detail.

Another symptom is a disorder in motor development when compared to peers; like riding a bike and catching a ball. People with asperger’s syndrome also usually have developmental coordination disorder and balance disorder.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood disintegrative dsorder or also known as Heller syndrome is when a child grows and develops normally, but stops after a certain period. In general, this disorder occurs in children aged 3-4 years.

Heller syndrome will affect a child’s abilities in various aspects, ranging from motor, social, language, and even mental.

Rett Syndrome

Rett syndrome is a genetic, developmental disorder that affect the brain. Symptoms of Rett syndrome usually appear when the child is 1 to 1.5 years old.

Similar to childhood disintegrative disorder, infants with Rett syndrome grow and develop normally, then will stop at some point. Rett’s syndrome may cause speech delays and movement disorders.

Rett syndrome begins from the stagnation phase characterized by difficulty in eating, speech delays and difficulty moving. Stage 1 generally appears at the age of 6-18 months.

After the stagnation phase, the next phase is the regression stage characterized by repetitive hand movements that tend to be uncontrollable such as squeezing or patting; tendency to scream or be restless for no specific reason; loss of body balance; sleep disturbances ;as well as difficulty in chewing or swallowing. Stage 2 generally appears at the age of 1-4 years.

Stage 3 is characterized by the beginning of the improvement of symptoms experienced in stage 2. However, there may be new symptoms that appear, such as irregular breathing, abnormal heart rhythms, and a tendency to grit teeth. Stage 3 generally appears in children aged 2-10 years.

Stage 4 is characterized by the shape of the spine that has abnormalities such as scoliosis, weak and stiff muscles, and even the inability to walk. Symptoms in this stage 4 last until adulthood.

Symptoms of Autism

Here are some commonly identified symptoms of autism

  • Lack of eye contact.
  • High interest in very limited things
  • Difficulty adapting to the environment.
  • Tendency to speak in a flat voice.
  • Refusal to hug
  • Tendency to do things over and over again, such as repeating the same word or sentence while talking and shaking their body while sitting in a chair.
  • Higher sensitivity to sound, touch, smell, to vision compared to people in general
  • Difficulty understanding a message either verbally, via gestures, facial expressions or speech intonation.

Treatment for Autism

In general, autism cannot disappear completely. However, there are several ways to help overcome developmental disorders, such as: 

  • Taking sleeping pills to overcome common sleep disorders 
  • Taking medications to help relieve hyperactivity.
  • Taking antidepressants to overcome anxiety and depression.
  • Taking anticonsulvans if you have epilepsy.

Treatment Cost for Autism

Treatment cost for autism varies depending on the choice of hospital, the form of therapy chosen, as well as the frequency of therapy. For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for autism, hospital recommendations, and making a doctor’s appointment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Autism

You cannot prevent autism. However, there are several practices that can be undertaken to maintain the fetus’ health during pregnancy and reduce the risk of autism.

Implement a healthy lifestyle

Consume healthy and nutritious foods, avoid alcohol and cigarettes and exercise regularly.

Avoid taking medicatiions while pregnant

Consult your doctor about any medication you want to take to determine if it is safe for pregnant women. 

Meet your daily iron needs

Iron is an essential nutrient for fetal brain development. It is recommended that you consume foods rich in iron, such as meat, seafood, eggs, bread and cereals.

Get routine check-ups with your doctor

Regular check-ups can help you monitor your baby’s health and provide early treatment if necessary.

Home Remedies for Autism

Below are some therapies that parents of autism patients can undertake at home:

Educational therapy

Educational therapy is a form of education specifically designed to accommodate people with autism. The earlier educational therapy is given to children with autism, the better and more effective it will be for the progress of the child’s development. 

Family therapy

This therapy is performed by family members of people with autism. This type of therapy can be done by learning how to handle people with autism and learning about the fundamentals that autism sufferers require for their daily needs.

Behavioral therapy and communication

Behavioral therapy and communication are specific therapies that help people with autism behave in social situations. The ultimate goal of behavioral therapy and communication is to improve a child’s communication skills with others.

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