In this day and age where so much is expected of children, and the gen next is actually very smart, capable, privileged in the exposure they receive and extremely social, there are some who are less fortunate. Those would be the children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Since the term uses spectrum, it doesn't really mean one disorder but it's a broader category including three main disorders – Asperger's Syndrome, Autistic Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. These are different in how badly they affect a person but they have common based characteristics. These conditions are related to disrupted growth and development of the brain and central nervous system. Suffice to say that some children are more affected by the degree of disorder than others. The common characteristics are divided into three areas:
- Difficulty in Social Interaction
- Difficulty in Verbal and Non-verbal communication
- Repetitive behaviour and limited interests
The challenges that each individual will face are different. Two people with the same diagnosis may still require different techniques of treatment. It's about the brain and how the kid relates to world and people in it.
There is no cure for ASD, that's why it is important for people to understand what it is and keep educating themselves to be able to cope with this lifelong challenge. This isn't just applicable to the people suffering from it but also for the family raising such children, the people like teachers, caregivers involved with them as well
The first years are the formative ones and it's in those years that observation/attention towards the kid can help diagnose the autistic condition leading to early treatment and therapy which works wonders. As there is no designated test for diagnosis, it's just qualified professionals analyse child's behaviour to ascertain if they have ASD. Usually, the diagnosis can be done within the first three years and treatment therapies can be started.
Here's a list of some common symptoms based on category:
- Don't use eye contact
- Don't respond to their name or familiar voices
- Don't use gestures
- Don't indulge in games
- Don't show interest in other kids
- Do not understand simple instructions
- Delayed speech
- Speaking in robotic or flat monotone
- Gets annoyed/angry if any changes are introduced in their routines
- Refuse or ignore requests
- Keep repeating pattern – like flapping, rocking etc
- Get obsessed with any particular object
These are a few common challenges that a kid may display, they may have all or a few of these. There are other symptoms as well. Also, it's not just the challenges; many autistic people are highly intelligent or talented.
Caring and raising a child suffering from ASD, requires patience, understanding, compassion and continuous efforts. Parents and caregivers need to understand that the kids difficult behaviour would involve some base and reaction. Paying close attention to their behaviour they can realize the cause and effect behind the same. Once we understand why a kid is facing issues with a situation and what they get out of behaving in that manner, we can work with them to make it easier. Constant learning is required to keep up with the challenges they face. Also, every kid needs a loving and friendly environment which is conducive to their healthy growth, but more so in the case of children suffering from ASD.
Apart from that, as a society, it's our onus. We need to be more understanding and we can contribute in making things easier for such families, by being a little humble and humane and giving our special members their due share and time for living better lives.