TODAY -

World Autism Awareness Day

Olivia Gurumayum *



It is such a heart-melting moment to see a child smile at you and reaching out their tiny hands to you. Every child loves all the attention from their parents or their family members or anyone around them. They love to play with new toys and show their new toys to their cousins and friends.

They love to be with friends and family and share their experiences for the day or whatever they learn from school. They love to share about their teachers or friends and the activities they did in school. When you appreciate and praise them for being generous, we could see their eyes fill with joy and blushes like a rose. Children often love to imitate their brothers and sisters, be it dress or play or how they talk.

Even a short interaction with them always brings out the inner child in every adult. They are no less than a therapist to adults. They can take you to the world of innocence, serenity, and fearlessness.

But, how about a child who is born opposite to those said above? And, what would it be when a child does not even react when you make funny faces and stare somewhere else? What if they don't even look up to say thank you when you buy new toys for them and engaging themselves with their old toys playing them in isolation. What if a child lives in a world of isolation that dislikes interaction and communication and shut themselves out from any reciprocation.

Autism, first described by Leo Kanner in 1943, is a chronic, lifelong disorder characterized by an inability to form normal relationships with others. They often exhibit a peculiar disturbance in forming a relationship with others. In severe cases, patients may be almost inaccessible, whereas, in milder ones, we might notice awkwardness and stiltedness in the patient's social behavior.

Autism is a relatively rare disorder, with a lifetime prevalence of about 0.05 percent; it is far more common in males than females, by a ratio of 3-4:1. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that includes a wide range of problematic behaviors such as language deficit, perceptual and motor development; defective reality testing; and an inability to function in social situations.

Autism usually can be identified before the child is 30 months old and maybe suspected in the early weeks of life. It also stated that autistic children have often seen inattention to others, and the inability to imitate is noticing as early as 20 months.

Mentions below are some of the clinical features of autism as given by Kanner in 1943. Not all autistic children have the same degrees of impairments and capabilities. Mothers often experienced no affection when being cuddled or never reached out when being picked up, never smile back, or never appearing to notice people present around them.

A social deficit, one of the clinical features, in which an autistic child is thought to have "mind-blindness", an inability to take other's attitudes towards them or to "see" things as others do. A child can be diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, however, it can be detected as early as 18 months old.

They seemed to be unable to relate themselves in an ordinary way to people and situations. They often exhibit gaze avoidance and could be seen in stereotypies such as repetitive hand flapping or fingerpicking.

Another symptom noted by Kanner was that an anxiously obsessive desire for the maintenance of sameness. It is also further pointed out that the autistic child desires to live in a static world, a world in which no change is tolerated. The slightest change in the arrangement may evoke a violent outburst of rage.

An absence of speech is another feature seen in the autistic child having an imitative deficit and do not effectively learn by imitation. Autistic children have limited speech. The speech is often a rudimentary manner such as echolalia- the parrot-like repetition of a few words found in about 75 percent of autistic children, if present.

Self –Stimulation is another feature found in autistic children in repetitive movement as head banging, spinning, rocking, which may continue for an hour. They are more comfortable in their environment and exclude themselves from any interaction with those around them.

They prefer a limited and solitary routine and often show an active aversion to auditory stimuli. The pattern is not always consistent, however, there may be a moment they feel agitated or panicked by a soft sound or oblivious to loud noise.

In terms of their intellectual ability, they often show marked impairment. Carpentieri and Morgan (1996) found that the cognitive impairment in autistic children reflects in greater impairment in adaptive behaviors than seen in mentally abled children without autism. They may show quite skilled at fitting objects together like arranging the puzzles or form boards may be average or above.

Maintaining sameness is also one of the features of autistic children. It is a distinctive manner that they are preoccupied with and form attachments to unusual objects like rocks, keys, etc. It also claimed to have obsessed with the maintenance of sameness and show tantrums if their familiar environment is disturbed.

The etiologic theories have supported the evidence of genetic contribution, and most studies also support that a fundamental disturbance of the central nervous system is involved. Many investigators believe that autism begins with some kind of inborn defect that impairs an infant's perceptual-cognitive functioning- the ability to process incoming stimuli and to relate to the world.

The treatment for autism includes family counseling, special education, medication, and behavioral modification. In the behavioral modification plan, parents are enlisted in the process and emphasized teaching children to learn from and interact with real-world situations. It also targets specific behavior such as head banging or aggressive behavior are quite effective through this treatment plan.

"Every child is a different kind of flower. And all together make this world a beautiful garden".

Like every flower having various characteristics, a human being also has distinct features, personality, etc. Parents do have an immense role in taking care of their child according to their child's state of knowledge. It is not an easy journey for the parents to be with an autistic child.

Every child has their way of learning things and adapt to the environment. Every year 2nd April is observed as World Autism Awareness Day. It aims to increase people's awareness about children with autism. We must educate ourselves and understand mental health and those going through other mental health issues.


* Olivia Gurumayum wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at olivguru(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 02 2021.



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