“Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me…Be my advocate, be my friend, and we’ll see just how far we can go” –Ellen Botbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a complex developmental disability. I happen to have two nephews with autism, one who I am very close to and interact with a lot.
A child is usually diagnosed with autism during the first three years of life. It is a result of a neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, and affects the development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills. A person with autism will most likely stick to certain behaviors and routines and will resist any change. No two people with autism have the same symptoms.
Some may have mild symptoms while others may have more severe symptoms. Although there are treatments available, sadly there is no cure for autism.
Autism is diagnosed based on clinical observation and testing using one or more standardized tests by a team of doctors that include pediatricians, neurologists, occupational therapist, physical therapists, developmental specialists, and speech language pathologists. The pediatrician will do a general physical examination, which will then refer the patients to a neurologist. When I accompanied my sister to some appointments for her son, I realized the neurologist sent him for an MRI of the brain.
I asked how this would help and he explained it would allow them to see if there is any underdevelopment with his brain. From there they are further evaluated by the psychiatrist or psychologist, as well as the speech pathologist or audiologist, to determine if there is any hearing loss or problems with language skills. The doctors will usually diagnose a patient by analyzing impairments in eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures. Some children will have a lack of spoken language or delays in social or emotional interactions.
In addition, parental interview and observations and medical history are taken into consideration. My sister went through some parental interviews, having been asked question such as if there had ever been anyone on either side of my nephews’ family with autism, or if she had observed any abnormal behavior with David since he was born. She indicated that she noticed he would cry most of the time or scream a lot. Her observations and the tests that the doctors performed helped them come to the conclusion that David in fact was autistic.
Research suggests that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism. Some of these signs are, no speaking or limited speech, difficulty in expressing wants and needs, crying, laughing, becoming angry, or screaming for no apparent reason, no babbling by the age of one, having random tantrums, and little or no eye contact. During the time I have spent with David since he was born, I have noticed many of these signs, especially the tantrums and the screaming or crying.
He screams and cries when there is something he wants, but because of the lack of speech we do not understand him. There are also some symptoms that accompany autism. Some children may have a sensitivity to light and loud sounds. Others may experience insomnia, or, like my nephew, may take a very long time to fall asleep at night. Although all of these factors may indicate that a child has autism, children with autism are very special in their own ways. They can actually be smarter in some things that we may find difficult.
From experience something that I find special is that they can sometimes express their emotions in a way that I find beautiful, which is with their eyes. My nephew may not know how to speak, but he knows how to show when he is excited to see someone he loves. When I go to visit he runs to me so I can pick him up, and smiles, and begins to play with my hair. He also has a love for music, which runs in the family, which consists of singers and band players. He feels the music, and screams not in anger, but in excitement when he hears it.
Autism is a disorder that is difficult to detect at an early age but through early observation it can be treated, but unfortunately not cured. In her book, Ellen Notbohm says “It all comes down to three words. Patience, patience, patience. ” Yes a child with autism requires patience, but also alot of support and above all else love. With help they have the chance of growing into successful adults. They just need to know that we love and believe in them, and that is what they need to go the distance.