Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social and communication skills. Children with autism can hardly communicate and restricted by repetitive behavior. Parents will notice symptoms of autism in the first three years of their child”s life. There has been a dramatic increase in autism cases in Malaysia. Hence, awareness of autism has also increased in the last few years. To celebrate World Autism Day Awareness recently, the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) held an inaugural walk to encourage people across the country to show support to children with autism.
Certainly it is not easy to hear from the doctors that your child has autism. This developmental disorder can pull a family apart or perhaps, bring the family together to face the different challenges ahead. This is because parents of children with autism tend to experience greater stress than parents of children with Down Syndrome. Autistic kids may display compulsive behavior that left the parents guessing. On top of that, our society tends to react negatively by isolating and judging these families and autistic children. Here are some practical tips to help parents to come to terms with the diagnosis and suggested approaches to help you to adjust to prevent the family from falling apart.
Most probably you will experience emotional rollercoaster and must go through several stages feeling angry, shock and of course, sad. Talk to counselors and overcome these negative feelings because you need to move on and care for your autistic child. If you have a hard time coping with stress, write a journal and talk about your feelings with other family members and relatives. Perhaps, you can even join a support group and seek advice from other parents with similar problem. Subsequently thereafter, learn some basic facts about autism and get some help from the experts.
Parents then need to address other problems such as care giving and finances. Generally, autistic kids could not look after themselves and are usually dependent. Therefore, parents must send them to special school or hire a domestic helper to look after the child. Sending the child to therapies, school and home programmes require a huge amount of money. Parents will feel the stress especially when only one income supports the whole family. Those who could not afford to send the kids to special home programme, look out for specific centre that caters to kids with autism. Sending your child to the centre helps to engage them in meaningful activities.
Despite all the breakthroughs and research in autism, it is still relatively unknown. Most studies showed that genetics is the main reason for autism in children while there has been cases reported where chemical exposure has caused defects in childbirth which suggested that there could be other factors apart from genetics that can cause autism although this has yet to be concluded. However, there are certain practices that can be carried out to reduce the risk of having a child with autistic problems. The pregnant mother should hold regular check-ups and to take vitamins that have been recommended. Drugs must not be taken while alcohol could cause defects as well.
Determining a child to be autistic could be very heart-wrenching but if there are signs that the child is not developing well, this means that medical treatment or therapy would be needed. This can be determined if the child is not able to show any joyful expressions after 6 months of birth or speech becomes slower than other babies. If the child is not speaking after 12 months or learning to speak at a much slower pace than others, then those could be signs that the child could be autistic.
Autism has been experiencing a spike in reported cases in recent years. Around the world, autism has been one of the biggest problems for parents where it can be a distressing experience especially in the upbringing of the child. In Malaysia, it has been reported by the Ministry of Health in 2010 that 1 in every 600 children in the country was autistic.
A general medical practitioner or the family physician will be able diagnose if a person is autistic. In most cases, these professionals will refer you to a specialist. To determine and confirm this condition, the child will usually go through an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) screening which will then refer you to a specialist. You can consult several types of specialists which include developmental pediatricians, neurologists, physical or speech therapists as well as child clinical psychologists who would be able to help your child in one way or another.
Autistic conditions can sometimes be difficult to ascertain. It can be noted that being autistic does not mean there is no cure because this condition can be treated and your child can learn to develop like any other child. The earlier the condition is ascertained, the better the treatment could be. Hence, if you notice your child losing focus all the time, does not respond to you, unable to follow objects visually or practice normal gestures like waving and smiling, then it could be early signs of autism.
There is no single medicine that can cure this type of neural disorder but certain drugs are used to reduce the effects of autism. This includes the following:
SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) – This is an anti-depressant like fluoxetine, fluvoxamine and sertraline.
Anti psychotic drugs – Such drugs are used to control behavioral disorders like Haloperidol, Chlorpromazine and Thioridazine while the newer ones include Risperidone which has been found to treat patients with signs of self-injury and aggression.
Anti-convulsants – This type of drug is used to treat seizures and includes carbamazepine, topiramate and lamotrigine.
Stimulants – drugs like Ritalin is used to treat autism and for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome)
For homes with autistic children, it is often recommended to include diet with high Vitamin B6 because it has been found to stimulate better brain activity although it has yet to be proven to cure autism. In these situations, it would be best for the parent to learn more about autism and support the child throughout the growing up years. The most important thing here is to have a working and effective support system for the child to not feel that he is alone in this situation. As a parent, you need to be an autism expert and always check with your child’s doctor on the development and diet practices.
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