Introduction to Autism
By: Dr. Ramzi Naser
In my work as a developmental pediatrician I receive many questions about autism: What is autism? How does it affect children? How do I know If my child has autism? Is there treatment available?
Of course, for any particular case, it will be important to seek advice from a professional with experience in child development to answer specific questions relating to a specific child, However I will try to provide some general answers to these questions here:
Autism is a developmental disorder (meaning it impacts the normal development of the child) It can occur in boys and girls, although it is more commonly diagnosed in boys.
autism is characterised by:
Difficulties in social communication.For example: not responding when their name is called, not using pointing or gestures to communicate, and making poor eye contact with parents
Unusual ways of speaking
Resistance to change
Insistence on following some routines
Some sensory issues(like severe sensitivity to sounds).
Speech delay is also a common finding in children with autism but not all children with speech delay have autism and not all children with autism have speech delay.
Many children with autism are quite bright and others have some difficulties with learning or achieving independence.
The first signs of autism commonly occur between 1-2 years of life. It is often the parents who notice the first signs and become worried. If you are worried, seek professional consultation
Not all children with such symptoms have autism and other reasons could explain some of these symptoms. Therefore, a very important step to take if your child has delays in speech or difficulties with communication is to check his or her hearing because that is a common and easily treated cause of communication delay.
The first signs of autism commonly occur between 1-2 years of life. It is often the parents who notice the first signs and become worried. If you are worried, seek professional consultation. It is also important to be careful and not to be falsely reassured when someone says that ‘oh he is a boy, he will speak later’ or ‘his older brothers and sisters are speaking for him’ or ‘he gets confused because he hears Arabic and English’. Such factors do not significantly impact the development of communication skills.
The reason it is important to have early identification of communication delays is because early detection leads to early intervention. Starting interventions early will give your child the best chance to achieve their full potential.